Writers and Directors: The cast and contributors
Reviewer: Maryam Philpott
It’s not easy being a 21st Century woman; there are plenty of freedoms, rights and open conversations about being whoever you want to be and making your own choices, but at the same time a lot of those choices still lead to external judgement – you want to have five children: judgement; you want to have no children: judgement.
Forked Theatre examines these dilemmas in the latest incarnation of its Motherlogues series in which a cast of five women create the show from scratch over five days, sharing stories from their own lives, choices and interactions with their mothers, as well as recounting the experiences of several others ‘donated’ via their website. Part stand-up, part rehearsed-reading, Motherlogues is a 75-minute anthology about being a modern woman.
The show is bookended by the idea that women are born like Russian dolls, emerging with another woman already inside, and through the course of the show the cast return to Amy Haddadian’s story about giving birth in Spain, performed by Stephanie Wickmere, in what is one of the more horrifically protracted birth stories you will hear, which, depending on your choices, will convince you that birth is worthwhile or a hideous endurance test you’d rather not undergo.
But Forked Theatre is nothing if not honest and this is the hallmark of the stories the five-strong cast tell. Whether it be insights into the exhaustion of competitive parenting and the struggle against the “perfect” mums, uninvited offers of surrogacy to a woman who had a hysterectomy at 22, which led to the breakdown of her marriage, learning about periods for the first time aged 10, or the painful truth about the process of natural miscarriage, Motherlogues is an ongoing conversation with its audience.
And while the structure is a little unvarying with each story given its moment in the spotlight, before being replaced by the next, each is told with warm engagement by Wickmere, Colleen Prendergast, Kailing Fu, Rose Collis and Lauren Reed, who embody the varied personalities of the contributors, capturing plenty of the humour, pain and anger at the bind that many women find themselves in.
The political elements of the show are strong and understandably unyielding as the cast consider why a good hostess or a practical problem-solving woman is seen as “mumsy” or “maternal”, when a man wouldn’t be, while there’s a tongue-in-cheek debate about the “selfishness” of the childless mirrored later in the show by a satirical sketch about lonely women having babies for comfort and missing out on a proper fulfilling life.
Motherlogues uses its short run time wisely to get the audience thinking about the contradictory societal pressures on women and their choices. It would be interesting to hear more about these differing expectations from a wider variety of ethnic or religious groups to give context to what is predominantly a white, UK perspective, but Forked Theatre has a solid basis to develop in countless new directions as the format evolves.
It’s clear that a woman’s life is still not entirely her own, and whether she was born in 1890 or 1990, society is still shaping her choices. If there’s anything you wanted to know about being a woman but were too afraid to ask, then Motherlogues is helping to start the conversation.
Runs until 27 August 2017 | Image: Contributed