Mummylogues – Old Red Lion Theatre, London

Reviewer: Jane Darcy

Director: Nieve Hearity

The title might suggest that peculiarly arch style of Mumsnet communications. But Mummylogues is very different, a series of short monologues created by Nieve Hearity and the cast which are punchy, unexpected, sometimes comic, sometimes tragic, always entertaining.

Not all the characters are mothers, for a start. Victoria Evaristo’s opening monologue presents a woman who has tokophobia – fear of pregnancy. It’s not as if she ever wanted children anyway. Are we meant to feel sorry for her, or cheer her independence? The monologue form keeps both possibilities in play. Evaristo subsequently performs Dignified, as a woman at the trial of her son’s murderers, raging beneath her stoic exterior.

Shereen Roushbaiani performs her own heart-breaking piece Fireworks about a traumatised Iraqi refugee, wandering in “barzakh”, the Islamic limbo, after taking her own life. In Hearity’s I’m Not a Nympho, Roushbaiani playfully represents a young woman tormented by lockdown-induced sexual frustration.

Other monologues explore the griefs of miscarriage and still birth, and a chilling medical phrase that the miscarried child was “incompatible with life”. Ellen Fife, a  sleep-deprived new mother in It’s Not Me It’s You, is terrified by her anger towards her crying baby, a piece with a troubling end. Is it comic or tragic? Sophia Sinclair admits to overwhelmingly negative feelings for her disabled brother, her rage spilling over into the special needs children now under her care. But candid expressions of rage allow more soothing memories to emerge of this non-verbal boy.

Fife’s The Cured, performed by Eden Vansittart, takes us to a future in which a cure for illness and death has been devised, but at a terrifying cost. If no one is to die, there is no need for future children.

Nieve Hearity herself is an imaginative powerhouse, creator of most of these pieces and a compelling actor. As a complete work, Mummylogues inevitably suffers from lack of structure and sometimes the juxtaposition of monologues creates odd disjunctions. Hearity’s high-spirited The Party is in a very different mode to most of the others. It’s a dialogue in a playground between a sympathetic mother and a recognisably awful one, played by Hearity, furious that her daughter has not had a party invitation. It’s hilarious, but where all the other pieces encourage us to see behind the mask, here the mother is a pantomime villain. Her daughter may be a bully, but fuller treatment might allow insight into her own demons. Altogether a highly entertaining evening of great vitality.

Runs until 18 September 2021

The Reviews Hub Score

Punchy vitality

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