Child abuse isn’t very funny… certainly not for your average midweek feast of theatre. And From the Mouths of Mothers isn’t exactly a play you’d want to gorge yourself on. It’s a heavy and very human verbatim piece. Six mothers share their experiences of the abuse suffered by their children, and it feels like a full 90 minutes of disclosure. The mothers, in the same way their children disclosed the horrors that befell them, impart their ordeals of fear, suspicion, and persecution at the hands of the state.
Amanda Stuart Fisher manages to succinctly weave the experiences of these six women into a narrative at once distressing and engaging
It’s a genuinely affecting and cathartic piece of work, though to be frank, you’d have to be a reptile to walk away from real life experiences like these and condemn them. Adapted for stage from 14 hours of recorded interviews, Amanda Stuart Fisher manages to succinctly weave the experiences of these six women into a narrative at once distressing and engaging. The simple set adds little, but takes nothing away. In fact, this is a piece of theatre that needs very little to make it resonate, which is why its stagecraft is at times awkward. The first 20 minutes clunk by as style tries to supercede content. A questionable sound design and devices which manhandle the piece, distract us and serve little purpose are employed. Equally the superfluous and constant video projections achieve nothing more than to draw our attention away from the action, the actors, the story and thereby the reality of what these women went through.
Part way through, when the work is left alone, untouched by technical theatricality it begins to truly excels. Here we see Tara McAllister-Viel’s ability to give her actors room to breathe and tell a story. Anne Bird and Emma Handy are particularly attuned to this, bringing a lightness of touch to the text, and an ease in plumbing the emotional depths of their performance.
You probably won’t laugh often during From the Mouths of Mothers. But it will linger with you long after you leave The Pleasance. Be prepared: it is sombre, heartbreaking, and with a palpable vulnerability to it.
*** (3 stars)
Runs until 25th May