Director: Katherina Radeva
Reviewer: Sophie Huggins
Sitting in the theatre, on International Women’s Day and watching a one-woman show that pieced together an often complex relationship between mother and daughter, can’t have been more poignant.
Performed by Michele O’Brien and directed by Katherina Radeva; their genders somewhat relevant, I’m Glad I Asked is a compilation of snapshots exploring the high and low moments that come with having an ageing parent. Even before entering the auditorium, the audience is welcomed into the world of mothers and daughters through various interactive activities that are a bombardment of the senses and require a reflection on our own childhoods. By encouraging this engagement from the start, the gates of the audience’s memories are opened, allowing a more relaxed and relatable performance. O’Brien even acknowledges the audience are an audience and she is a performer; an aspect that served the piece well to feel more like a conversation in the room, rather than a piece of theatre with the fourth wall firmly up.
The mother, represented by a stern-faced human sized puppet sitting precariously in a flashy wheelchair, was made by Teresa Grimaldi. Grimaldi created a real sense of character in the puppet and encapsulated the weight of a woman who had lived 91 years. But, the mother really came to life through the energy of O’Brien. Her strong presence was undeniable and with a firm but delicate hand, she painted a picture that coloured in the intricate ups and downs of their relationship. The lows were not romanticised either, which is something that can often happen in theatre, and the audience were there (and up close) to witness them – dirty nappies and all.
The continuous contrast between light and dark almost made the audience harbour guilt for their laughter, but the wonderful mix of dance, song and even eccentric accent swept this feeling away almost as quickly as it had arrived. O’Brien commanded the stage and it was a joy to watch. Even though the space was completely stripped back, with only a chair and her mother to interact with, it was her direct communication to the audience that was engaging throughout.
This aspect of an exchange between O’Brien and the audience perhaps reflects the nature of how the piece was devised – an amalgamation of many workshops across Poole in which mothers and daughters were interviewed. Interestingly, sitting in a roughly 90% female audience a definite sense of community grew and, by the end, many gasps and comments echoed throughout.
The creators’ aims of boosting an awareness of many female themes, was often communicated through prompt cards which, although can be slightly repetitive, certainly suited the style of the piece. Beginning with opening the door to the past and ending with opening the door to the future incited questions regarding women in society; something that on a day like today couldn’t have been more appropriate.
Reviewed on 8 March 2017 – Tour comntinues | Image: Contributed