“I’ve just read the synopsis of the play we’re seeing. Bloody hell mate.”
“I told you it sounded harrowing. Do you want to give it a miss and we can catch up later?”
“No, I’ve picked an outfit now. I’m committed.”
Thus was the exchange I had with the friend who agreed to accompany me to Mum, 20 minutes before we were due to meet. We reflected afterwards how glad we were that we’d seen it together and Mum was made all the poignant for me having experienced it with another strong woman that I’m lucky enough to be able to share my secrets and fears with.
Mum moves quickly – we meet Nina (Sophie Melville – who I will say up front is exquisite), a new mum who is preparing for her first night off in three months with her friend, Jackie, while her mother-in-law, Pearl, prepares to relieve Nina of baby Ben for the evening. Nina begins to unwind and expand upon the conflict she feels as the mother of a baby that she is as fiercely in love with as she is exasperated and exhausted by. She is suddenly interrupted by a phone call summoning her to the hospital where Ben is currently being kept under observation, casting the private conversation she has been having with her close friend into a very different light. Mum quickly gets to the very heart of some of the greatest taboos of modern life – is anyone ever really ready to have a baby, and when is your best not good enough?
As a childless woman in my 30s I began to feel that I was unqualified to offer any commentary on the production, but minutes later we gain some insight into Nina’s relationship with her own mother and the reverberation was so strong it caught in my throat. That is the power and the beauty of Mum – whether you have a baby, or a mother, or a mother-in-law, or a partner, or even a friend – Mum will touch something inside you that feels so raw that you will feel seen to the point of being exposed.
It’s almost impossible to provide an honest critique of Mum without bearing my own soul, such was the affect it had on me. It is undoubtably the most honest and raw depiction of motherhood I’ve ever seen, and Sophie Melville as Nina is absolutely perfect in every way. The dynamic between her and her mother-in-law Pearl (Denise Black) is familiar and believable without being trite, and friend turned informant Jackie (Cat Simmons) swings from being safe confidante to suspicious professional with convincing ease.
The stage is so simply set but incredibly effective, as a Tatty-Devine-esque mobile rotates menacingly above the action, which takes place on a sort of circle of intensity. My one complaint would be that there were some moments of jerky, dramatic movement which felt overboard, such was the passion of the dialogue and performance. Overall, however, Mum was an emotional journey that I feel all the better for having traversed, and one that will stay with me for a very long time. It’s not an easy watch but with a superb cast who help you feel your way through your own unique experience, it’s an important one that I highly recommend.
Playing until the 20th November https://sohotheatre.com/shows/mum/
Reviewer: Zoё Meeres
Reviewed: 23rd October 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★