cast mums

Sophie (Amy Ross), Chantel (Jade Samuels), Michelle (Rebecca Bernice Amissah) Bea (Joanna Kirkland) and Esme (Belinda Wollaston) Pictures: Pamela Raith

The Good Enough Mums Club

Birmingham Hippodrome


The Good Enough Mums Club is unashamedly for, about and written by mums and what a delight it turns out to be. It’s lewd at times, laugh out loud at times, but always true to its avowed intention of telling the very human and timeless story of being a mum.

Admittedly men have a small part, literally in some cases, but their chapter was closed long before the opening number – this is a musical about mum power, about sagging boobs, lost figures, forlorn dreams of eight hours sleep in one go, toddler terrors, poos and puke and all the joys, fears, hopes and dark thoughts and madness of motherhood.

The setting is a community hall where each week a group of disparate mums meet up, their only common bond the little bundles of joy and jeopardy in the pushchairs they wheel before them.

We have Bea (Joanna Kirkland) who runs the group. She’s the posh one, husband a high flyer, and she wants the best for her toddlers who are learning French, German and Mandarin along with every activity known to man – poor little mites.

There is Michelle (Rebecca Bernice Amissah) who is big in every way, big voice, big heart and big double pushchair for her twins with a big crash when she arrives – steering not one of her better skills as the door frame can confirm.

There is a moment, just enough to register, when she relates abuse on her way to the centre one day merely because of her colour. Some mums have more to contend with than others in a world where people can still come second to prejudice.  

Chantel (Jade Samuels) is the live wire, taking BS from no one. She is the political firebrand when the council threatens to close the centre and sell the land for residential development, or effing luxury homes as she puts it in her more direct way.

This world premiere is set in Birmingham, but could be any town or city as playing fields, community centres and facilities, indeed anything of value is flogged off in fire sale Britain where food banks have become the No 1 growth industry.


Belinda Wollaston as Esme with her powerful ballad about the anguish she feels

Breast feeding was a no-no to Chantel, her figure was hers and hers to keep, thank you. With two kids she was just keeping her head above water and we feel a strange mix of programmed happiness and deep human compassion when she finds she is in danger of finally being pushed under the waves.

Sophie (Amy Ross) is the poster girl for saggy boobs, three years of breast feeding take their toll, and like Chantel, you suspect the pair are not from the leafy, des-res part of town, but a bit, or even a lot more, effin’ down market.

The quartet have their problems, their triumphs, their terrors, usually called toddlers . . . and then there is Esme (Belinda Wollaston), who is a lesbian, but that is not what sets her apart - does anyone care these days?

What sets her apart is postpartum psychosis, a posh name for the depths of despair and numbing depression that descends on some unfortunate new mums, that feeling of guilt, inadequacy, an emotional roller-coaster of soaring ups and deep downs with tears, constant tiredness and dark thoughts all part of what becomes a miserable way of life.

Being a mum is a wonderful thing, no mums I know would regret joining that club, but it is not the easiest of initiations, even when all goes well and here is a musical which touches on some of the pitfalls and problems of parenthood.

There is the birth itself – and the pain. For fathers it is a really tight grip of a hand or an uncomfortable seat in the waiting room, for mums . . . well it’s painful just watching as the five do a sort of scream along number, Nine Months, to open.

Then there are all the other emotions to come, the loneliness of a tired mum, feeling abandoned and left to cope with a father escaping, off at work, or in Bea’s case, real loneliness with a husband at conferences, meetings, New York, never there, never home, never seeing his children, and . . . well should she be worried about her marriage as well? Only Bea knows that,

There is Esme’s anguished solo, Price to be paid, in what is a moving anthem of despair and then the emotional desolation of Sophie as a simple date of the centre’s closure, April 24, triggers the anguish she secretly carries every day of the sudden death of her two-year-old firstborn, Ronan, on that date. It is a song of grief no parent should ever have to sing. The thoughts of mothers and fathers in the audience were lost elsewhere in that one.

The music from Verity Quade, with addition music from Chris Passey, is masterful, reminiscent of Jason Robert Brown, not so much songs as conversations set to music, each telling a story, expressing an emotion, a fear or a need and each given a purpose, setting its own scene and moving the story on.

It was a pleasure to listen to a cast who all had fine musical theatre voices and, to their credit, we could hear every word clearly, and boy, could they ring out the emotion when needed as in Esme’s cries of anguish and Sophie’s unbearable memory of a life stolen away.

The four-piece band under musical director Debbi Clarke (no relation) at the back of the stage do a fine job and allow the voices to shine.

As a father, try as you might, your role in bringing up a child is yours and yours alone. Life changes for both of you but for a mum birth opens a far different world. Hormonal, physical and mental changes abound. My wife, and I suspect many mothers in the audience, identified with that, while for men . . . perhaps we might have been more understanding had known more.

It could be the ultimate mum’s night out, full of laughs and tales of intimate areas only those with stretch marks, saggy boobs and memories of nappy changes are likely to recognise - landing strips and Heathrow springs to mind.

But its also full of comradeship, of friendship, of a common bond that binds mums together far beyond social class, education or wealth, it is about motherhood and that inborn instinct to protect nurture and do the best you can for your child.

And for balance, the five become their toddlers at times, discussing their guerrilla tactics, tactics every parent will recognise, just to show what ******** (fill in with any words you fancy) the little darlings can be, usually in restaurants, shops or anywhere people can tut tut.

It’s taken 10 years to get this show on the road, the baby, so to speak, of creator, writer and lyricist Emily Beecher who has talked to mothers around the land, hearing their stories, their troubles and their hopes and finally, thanks to the support of Birmingham Hippodrome, it has finally made it to the stage. The wait has been worthwhile.

The set and costumes from Libby Todd give that colourful playschool feel with the community hall kitchen, complete with urn, in the background, while Aaron J Dootson’s lighting added drama when needed and Andrew Johnson’s sound had a lovely balance, not always easy in a small studio, especially with a drummer in the mix.

Directed by Sarah Meadows and Michelle Payne the club meets again tonight at the Patrick Studio at Birmingham Hippodrome before heading off for branch meetings in Chester, Norwich, The Lowry, Salford and Southampton.

Roger Clarke


Good Enough Mums Club             

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