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Mother's provide a pregnant pause... for laughter



Review by David Munro

I MUST make it clear from the outset that I have never been a father and at my age - Des O'Connor notwithstanding - am unlikely ever to be one.

Therefore, for me to review an evening devoted to the effect babies have on their mums, and their immediate surroundings, is somewhat of a challenge.

It is true that the onlooker sees most of the game but, in this case, the game is an alien species, which in everyday life, I tend to avoid like the plague.

This entertainment is shamelessly aimed at the vast audience of mothers and mothers-to-be, who can empathise with the traumas troubles and tackiness on stage. Mum's the Word is really Vagina Monologues- The Sequel. Having talked about it, they have now done it and we are faced with the results.

It is obviously not a play and, like its predecessor, it is a loosely knit series of monologues on birth and motherhood.

Delivering the monologues are six actresses, each portraying a different type of mother.

Rebecca Wheatley is Linda, the Earth mother, who sets the evening going by simulating a birth on stage.

Sarah White is Deborah, the cerebral mother, with intellectual pretensions; Kim Hartman is Alison, the suburban harassed mum, with a physically challenged child; Maureen Nolan is Jill, the slick chick, whom motherhood matures; Polly Highton is the happy-go-lucky mum, Barbara, while Julie T. Wallace is the strapping no-nonsense, quasi-lesbian single mother.

The names taken by the actresses are those of the six authors of the piece who, so the programme informs me, were six Canadian actors with ten children between them, who decided to turn their experiences of motherhood into a theatrical evening.

That was in 2002 and clearly, things have moved on since then, as in the show I saw last night, there were topical references, which kept the piece fresh.

The first half is devoted to the birth and its immediate effect on the mother, the second deals with its wider implications vis-a vis husbands, partners and the world.

All six ladies are very professional and very amusing, although I have to confess that the mainly female audience picked up humorous references which were completely lost on me. Nonetheless, there is enough which is funny in its own right to give the childless ones a good evenings entertainment.

In particular, I shall always remember Kim Hartman, as the distraught Mum, rocking her baby in a carry cot on her hip, and continuing to rock herself after she had placed the baby on the floor.

Then there was Polly Highton's naked rush after her errant child, who had escaped from the swimming pool changing room, which convulsed not only the audience but the rest of the cast with laughter.

These are but two memorable moment; I could also mention Sarah White's Cri de Coeur for the intelligence which motherhood has stolen from her; Julie T Wallace's gradual realisation that a mother is a group animal and motherhood erodes independence, or Maureen Nolan extolling the peace from her frenetic existence which motherhood brings, and Rebecca Wheatley for practically all she said and did.

It was a happy evening, even though there were sombre moments, such as Kim Hartman's heartbreaking account of the fears and traumas inherent on having an undersized frail baby.

A counter to Sally White's hysterical outburst, as how she envisages coping with her future after she has dropped her child, head first, on the concrete pavement.

There are these and many more delights to be found at the New Wimbledon Theatre and I must leave you to discover them for yourself. For me, for now, it's mums the word

Mum's the Word, by Linda A Carson; Jill Daum; Alison Kelly; Robin Nichol; Barbara Pollard; Deborah Williams.
Director, Wayne Harrison; Lighting, Simon Wilkinson; Sound, Tommy Gorman.
WITH: Sarah White, Rebecca Wheatley, Kim Hartman, Maureen Nolan, Polly Highton, Julie T Wallace.
Producer - Robert C Kelly Ltd and Clear Channel Entertainment.
New Wimbledon Theatre, The Broadway, Wimbledon, London, SW19 1QG.
Mon, March 29 - Sat, April 3, 2004
Evenings Mon - Fri: 7.30pm, Matinees Thurs 2.30pm, Sat 6pm & 8.30pm. Box Office 0870 060 1827.

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