Theatre review - Mum

Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s short, sharp shock of a play is about every mother’s worst nightmare.

Three months in and Nina (Sophie Melville) is still shell-shocked after having given birth to a baby boy, Ben. She agrees to have an evening to herself, and reluctantly gives Ben to her husband and mother-in-law Pearl (Denise Black) to look after him for a night.

Over pizza and wine, a baby’s mobile of clouds rotating overhead, Nina tells her friend Jackie (Cat Simmons) of her tiredness, constant worry, loss of identity and how she fears she is unravelling. She is also mourning the death of her own mother (Black) who had been ambivalent about motherhood and warned Nina against it.

Just as she is beginning to relax a phone call comes that will change everything forever. Morgan’s taut, charged play recounts Nina’s nightmarish journey.

Lloyd Malcolm claims she drew on her own experiences of anxiety in early motherhood in order to write the play. It’s sometimes terrifying to listen to but Nina’s sense of alienation, of feeling overwhelmed, must be familiar to many mothers. She describes giving birth as like witnessing a car crash, “a horrible mess”, leaving her “exhausted and brutalised”, while everyone else just seemed to cope and carry on as normal.

Directed by Abigail Graham (also a recent mother), Mum is simply but effectively staged. However, it hits a high register early on and stays there – allowing us little time to draw breath – and could have benefitted from some lulls in tension.

That said, Melville’s performance is never less than compelling and she is well supported by Black and Simmons who take on various roles.

Lloyd Malcolm’s talent is also clear. This is a fearless exploration of a difficult subject; 60 minutes of feverishly intense drama that is both disturbing and poignant.

Until November 20

Originally published by Camden New Journal