My Mother Said I Never Should

Published April 19, 2016

What it all about?

Women, changing roles, changing expectations, mothers and daughters.

Charlotte Keatley’s plot, which leaps back and forth though time with the aplomb of Quantum Leap in its glory days, follows four generations of one family as each mother has expectations for her child, each child has expectations of her mother, neither correlate with reality and difficult decisions have to be made.

Who’s in it?

Maureen Lipman, for a start. As Doris, the grandmother of the family, the matriarch during the Blitz, she’s a stern treat as the cold, affection-free, well-to-do 40s housewife, softening only in later years at the arrival of grandchildren. Lipman, as you’d expect, brings all her comic genius to a host of bone dry retorts.

Caroline Faber, as Doris’ daughter Margaret, is the quietly ambitious one, eager to take advantage of the new work opportunities that lay open to her, while Katie Brayben, an Olivier Award winner in 2015, returns to the London stage as her daughter Jackie. Brayben brings exuberance and joy to the childhood Jackie, tempered by an often unspoken regret as the grown-up woman.

Serena Manteghi completes the quartet as Rosie, the child whose life still lies ahead of her, but who swiftly builds her own ideas of motherhood.

What should I look out for?

With so much changing for women during the timespan of the play, keep an eye out for the beautifully placed echoes of consistency across the generations, from red socks to folding sheets.

Signe Beckmann and Timothy Bird’s collaborative design that uses multiple televisions to both set the time and space and create changing backdrops.

The oh so subtle Carrie reference that sneaks in, possibly accidentally, though I suspect not given that particular story’s own mother issues.  

In a nutshell?

Mum’s very much the word, or maybe it isn’t, in this warm womanhood drama.

What’s being said on Twitter?

Will I like it?

There’s a reason My Mother Said I Never Should has made it onto the GCSE syllabus – wait, don’t let that put you off! – it’s a play rich in ideas about womanhood and motherhood, change and stasis. Keatley’s characters are immediately knowable and instantly relatable, and in the hands of four such accomplished performers their stories are potent and touching. For all the troubles that percolate through the relationships, Keatley’s tale retains a warmth that, for many of us I guess, feels fitting for a play about mums.

Oh, and if you want to see Lipman playing a primary school-age child – and why wouldn’t you? – this is also worth a look.

My Mother Said I Never Should runs at the St James Theatre to 21 May. You can book tickets through the theatre’s website.