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My Mum’s a Twat review at Royal Court, London – ‘wayward, raw and very funny’

Patsy Ferran in My Mum's a Twat at Royal Court, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton Patsy Ferran in My Mum's a Twat at Royal Court, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Billed as “an unreliable version of a true story filtered through a hazy memory and vivid imagination”, Anoushka Warden’s debut play, My Mum’s a Twat, is an autobiographical coming of age story about a girl who loses her mother.

Her mother isn’t dead. But she absents herself from her young daughter’s life in a different way, by joining a cult and, soon after, moving to Canada. Warden – who is also the Royal Court’s head of press – captures her protagonist’s sense of outrage, frustration and betrayal at this, labelling her mother a “twat” for succumbing to the cult. Her mother’s twattish behaviour includes changing her name to Dianias, allowing the cult – a meditation and healing “self-realisation” centre – to take control of her finances, and being really shit at giving birthday presents.

If this sounds like it might be pretty hard going, it isn’t. The stuff about the cult is one facet of a bigger story about growing up in the 1980s. The writing is frequently funny and full of pin-sharp detail. Warden describes her younger self’s obsession with troll dolls and the ecstasy of tasting Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for the first time, a sensory experience entangled in her memory with that of her first proper kiss. She also describes the relative independence her mother’s hands-off approach to parenting allowed her.

The best parts of the play combine the headiness of adolescence with the abiding sense that, in prioritising the cult over her child, her mother did her lasting damage.

Patsy Ferran performs the monologue with her customary mix of affability and emotional dexterity. One minute she’s describing making a DIY skunk lab out of a bedside cabinet, the next she’s explaining how her heart has never quite recovered from her mother’s actions.

Designer Chloe Lamford has transformed the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs into a spot-on 1980s teenage bedroom complete with turquoise walls, fairy lights, a shelf full of mix-tapes and troll dolls; to complete things, half the audience is seated on beanbags.

Vicky Featherstone and Jude Christian direct with a necessary lightness of touch but though the play contains an appealingly wayward energy along with a real sense of unresolved anger, it lacks a sense of momentum.

The monologue format feels constraining at times and, perhaps inevitably, the character of the mother remains remote – a shapeless, peripheral figure in the story. This is both completely understandable, given the nature of the story being told, but also dramatically unsatisfying.

Warden can really write and, at its best, this resembles Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit with added cocaine and gags about Zig and Zag, but at times it feels as if the story would be better suited to a memoir than a stage play.

Verdict
Anoushka Warden's wayward, raw and frequently very funny autobiographical debut play
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