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The Nightmare of Motherhood

Rock-a-bye-baby on the treetop it’s not! In fact, Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s ‘Mum’ explodes the myth of motherhood being a pastel-wash of heaven-sent bliss where mothers coo over gurgling infants, writes Carolyn Hart Taylor.

If the only downside was a few sleepless nights, it would be a breeze. Who amongst us couldn’t handle that? Enter Sophie Melville as Nina, utterly overwhelmed and telling us, ‘I don’t know who I am anymore’. 

Nina, both fragile and brittle, exudes desperation. Surely one baby-free night indoors drinking wine with friend Jackie, (Cat Simmons) can’t hurt?

Unfortunately, Nina’s role as mother to baby Ben doesn’t come with an on-off switch. Out of sight is not out of mind. It is, though, an evening of questioning thoughts: ‘I should be prioritising him, shouldn’t I? Why have I let David take him?’. 

Motherhood is not a nine-to-five job, it’s around the clock, seven days a week, leaving Nina unable to escape her exhausted mind, a mind that’s steadily unravelling. Even her best friend now seems like her worst nightmare.

Nina’s mother Pearl(Denise Black) is a woman whose maternal instinct was non-existent and who often left Nina alone as a child. These personal experiences rooted in Nina’s mind reappear as ominous warnings, convincing her she’s inadequate. Being perpetually on stage reinforces the inescapable weight of her responsibility and inescapable role. 

Moments of physical theatre allow us to see Nina sucked around the stage like a rag doll as she bounces from one alarming interaction to another. Audiences are thrown into the position of judge and jury, witnessing Nina confronted with booming voices hurling evidence of reckless behaviour at her.

As reality distorts, imagination feasts on all those negative tabloid stereotypes of unfit mothers and the finger-pointing public’s unrealistic demands of perfection.  

This creatively executed play dealing with the taboo side of motherhood is worth seeing. 

Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street, London W1D 3NE until 20th November. Times: Mon-Sat 7.30pm; Thur & Sat matinees 3pm. Admission: £14 – £26. Booking: www.sohotheatre.com

Photos: The Other Richard

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