‘THE GOOD Enough Mums Club’ is a brand new musical play, which aims to fire an arrow straight at the hearts of its target audience. That is of course the ‘Mums’ referred to in the title.
The company is a female affair, produced, directed, designed, choreographed, stage managed and acted by mums. With that thought in mind I took my daughter, mother to my three-year-old grandson with me to add her views to my review.
The book and lyric writer is Emily Beecher, she developed her script from the notes she wrote as part of her therapy for post-natal depression and from the stories from other mums who have struggled with motherhood too.
The show has been commissioned jointly by the Birmingham Hippodrome and the Lowry and I presume is the start of the Hippodrome’s exciting new in- house musical theatre production arm. It was certainly given first class resources in an exceptional set, full technical facilities and an excellent band under musical director Debbi Clark.
I certainly did not feel excluded from the plot as Beecher has an extra character to identify with, namely the centre where the mums and toddlers meet. I cared that this was about to close and would happily have joined a protest to keep it open.
To me Beecher has thrown the kitchen sink and more at the script and I think it would benefit from cutting out on some scenes and expanding others. Sometimes when a question was raised we are not offered an answer and to me this is a flaw not cleverness.
There are two directors Sarah Meadows and Michelle Payne, does not make for a perfect modus operandi – a director’s role is not one to share as it leads to compromise and maybe that’s what is blurring the edges here?
It didn’t bother me that the mums were all a bit cliché, different by colour, class, mental health and sexual orientation, but I do think it would benefit from characterising with a fine brush on canvas not a paint brush on a wall.
There is an excellent songbook with a wide range of styles from the comedic to the tragic with a ‘Happy and you know It’ sing-a-long walkdown which may well become a young mums’ anthem.
This show may well go on to become a box office hit but for me it’s like the curate’s egg, good in parts but needs more work in others – that’s my male reviewers viewpoint and now for the young mums thoughts:-
And the young mum’s thoughts
From the moment I stepped in to the auditorium I felt at home in the familiar community centre surroundings, instantly taking me back to three years ago, where I sat, bathed in nerves and postpartum sweat, in anticipation of the mums I was about to meet. The opening setting (designed by Libby Todd) was simple yet effective, five chairs each lined with an oh so familiar ‘parent must have’ including the dressing gown – the fashion staple of those first few months, the tummy time pillow – a desperate attempt to get your child that valuable tummy time without screaming after a few seconds and the soft play cube – which will become your home and the main culprit of stomach bugs for the next 10 years.
The opening number had me howling – in all my years at the theatre, never did I think I would be tapping my foot along to a tune of mucus plugs and bloody shows. But, I did, it worked and I enjoyed it (though of course maybe not as much as Cbeebies with Tom Hardy).
The story follows five women Michelle (Rebecca Bernice Amissah), Bea (Joanna Kirkland), Sophie (Amy Ross), Chantel (Jade Samuels) and Esme (Belinda Woolaston). All of whom did a great job in narrating the reality that becoming a mum is not a ‘light task’, it is life-changing. Each mum was a different stereotype and although I can pick out such characters in my own ‘mum group’ they didn’t need to be portrayed as heightened and ‘tongue in cheek’ as they were. I found this grated on me and unintentionally put my guard up. Trust in the stories and allow room for subtly.
The plot uncovers the harsh realities and often unspoken areas of motherhood, such as postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis and child loss, raising awareness of how important it is to reach out and ask for help however daunting it may seem.
I do think the script fell short in places, questions left unanswered and issues resolved too quickly before swiftly moving on to the next.
There where some clever moments where the mums became the children, voicing what we fear our children might really be thinking. This technique provided some light relief and was used just enough without it becoming annoying.
From one mum to another – thank you for making our voices heard and our feelings validated. I hope the journey of The Good Enough Mums Club is a successful one, as I would look forward to watching the next edition with my own mums’ group in tow.