my mother trio

Connie Walker as Margaret, Felicity Houlbrooke as Rosie and Kathryn Ritchie as Jackie

My Mother Said I Never Should

Malvern Theatres


Charlotte Keatley’s ‘most widely performed play written by a woman’ explores the complex relationships between mothers and their daughters with three mothers of succeeding generations depicting the vast social shifts of the 20th Century.

Life for the oldest generation of women depicted was largely a matter of motherhood, house-keeping and home-making. Then career and job opportunities began to open up ever more widely for women, and Margaret combines her mothering with office work, which creates tensions with her husband.

Finally Jackie is the modern young woman: emancipated by the contraceptive revolution and free of the conventional views of committed married relationships, she becomes an unmarried mother.

The role of grandparents becoming substitute parents results in another example of lives lived with secrets hidden from even the closest family .

This cleverly constructed play portrays the tensions and the sadness of women who are swept along by social pressures and influences that leave them inwardly alienated and unfulfilled.

The London Classic Theatre’s touring production is excellent. The acting is brilliant: the actors have to switch quickly from childhood to teenage, adulthood and even senescence (in Doris’s case), and back again, and they accomplish this with great vivacity, and conviction.

Their use of vocal changes, accents, pace of dialogue all contribute to a riveting sequence of snapshot scenes that embody very effectively the essence of different eras.

Carole Dance (Doris) evokes much sympathy with her well-modulated performance, a grandmother who has been controlled by a male-dominated society with a hidden secret to live with.

Connie Walker (Margaret) embodies the social changes, torn between the values and culture where family values remained strong, but the world of work was opening up. Her understated performance was moving. 

Kathryn Ritchie (Jackie) is the brassy and most independent individual who nonetheless struggles to resist her maternal instincts to pursue her art career. Her final scene with Rosie when the secret is revealed was a telling emotional outburst.

Felicity Houlbrooke (Rosie) was full of energy and her progression to teenager excellently portrayed.

This is complimented by well-designed costumes showing the development of fashions, well managed hairdos and the progressive introduction of technology and musical styles.

The abstract set design works well in providing a flexible context for different eras and locations while reflecting the fragmentation of the lives of the protagonists.

At the outset of this play, the audience takes a little time to work out who is who, what the relationships are, and which is which in the generations. This is particularly true because, in the opening scene and some subsequent ones, they are all portrayed as children and the visual clues are a challenge to pick up. However, it is not too long before the story begins to emerge and the relationships are clarified.

This very well designed and performed play depicts social change without moral comment but with sensitivity and empathy. The strong cast deserve good houses; get along to The Festival Theatre for this show which runs till Saturday 17th November; it’s a bit far to travel to York to see it next week when this tour concludes.

Tim Crow


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