Don’t let the title ‘Mummylogues’ put you off, I say this as a childless woman with minimal maternal instincts. This collection of monologues and duologues taps into a range of important topics that link with a broader theme of reproduction, as well as motherhood. These topic are far reaching and include endometriosis, miscarriages, racism, phobia of pregnancy, the violent loss of a child, the struggle to bond with a new born, and the politics of children’s birthday parties. With a running time of just over an hour, this is a varied and compelling collection of short pieces that are brought to life by a surprisingly large cast (the backstage area at the Old Red Lion must be much bigger than it looks)
Created by Nieve Hearity, who has written many of these short pieces, she shows a deft hand at creating emotionally resonant punchy stories. She has a great range showing a flare for both the comic and the tragic. I suspect ‘It’s Not Me It’s You’ will haunt me for quite some time, in which Ellen Fife gives a disturbingly convincing portrayal of a woman struggling to connect with her baby.
However Hearity didn’t want to be the only voice represented, so the collection includes works by other writers (most are also members of the cast). ‘The A Word’ written by Shereen Roushbaiani focuses on small details to add a stark sense of humour to a difficult situation. ‘4 Times’ written and performed by Sophie Sinclair unflinchingly lands the fear of being pregnant within a racist society. Kate Vowels writes and performs the compelling ‘Growing Pains’ while Ellen Fife’s futuristic ‘Cured’ is performed by Eden Vansittart.
Directing duties are also shared, with many of the pieces directed by Kiah Shabka and Victoria Evaristo (who is also the Presentation Director). This mix of voices, performers and directors give a freshness to each piece, so they are thematically rather than stylistically connected. On the whole this works well, as there are plenty of comic moments scattered throughout the 1 hour running time that help to balance out the darker stories. However, the sombre ‘Dignified’, while beautifully performed by Victoria Evaristo, didn’t quite have the space it needed for her grief to fully connect. This might simply be a question of reviewing the running order, or taking time for a moment of silence before Evaristo first speaks, holding a pause long enough to make sure the audience has a chance to absorb her deliberate stillness and can prepare themselves for the emotional impact of hearing from the mother of a murdered child.
It can be challenging to create an emotionally satisfying collection of short stories, and for the most part ‘Mummylogues’ succeeds. It was great to see many under-discussed subjects being explored, and it is refreshing to have such candid stories about the challenges of having a womb (all I’ll say is I recognised far too much of my own experiences in the opening piece ‘Just listen to me’), the uncertainties of pregnancy and the darker side of motherhood.
‘Mummylogues’ is running at the Old Red Lion until 24th July 2021. You can find out more or book tickets here: https://www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk/Mummylogues.html