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My Mother Said I Never Should review at Theatre by the Lake, Keswick – ‘warm, but underpowered revival’

Maggie O'Brien and Asha Kingsley in My Mother Said I Never Should at Theatre by the Lake. Photo: Robert Day.

Charlotte Keatley’s 1987 play about mothers and daughters relies on the audience knowing more than the characters. My Mother Said I Never Should explores the lives and relationships of four generations of women against a backdrop of social change. Spanning 60-odd years, and moving backwards and forwards in time, it works cumulatively, with moments gaining significance over the course of play.

Director Katie Posner paces the play’s major soliloquies well, but she opts for exuberance over subtlety in some scenes where the actors play their characters as children. While this boosts the production’s energy, it sometimes flattens out the carefully crafted ironies of the play. The children’s personalities remain generic for the most part, and some of the adult scenes feel a bit rushed.

Elizabeth Wright’s design cleverly accommodates both a drawing room and the ‘waste ground’ where the children play. Robbie Butler’s lighting effectively transforms the space when required. Tempo and mood are unobtrusively set by Adam P McCready’s atmospheric music and sound design, with some particularly delicate light and shade during the soliloquies.

The performances are all solid. Maggie O’Brien’s Doris is both convincingly unbending as a mother and decidedly floppy as a great-grandmother. Asha Kingsley’s Margaret brings some real pathos to the role of Doris’ purse-lipped daughter. Emily Pithon’s Jackie is warm and empathetic. Georgina Ambrey finds the right spark for Rosie, the youngest of the four.

This is a feel-good production, but its warmth comes at the price of blurring some of the play’s sharper edges.

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Warm if underpowered revival of Charlotte Keatley’s play about four generations of women