I would be mad not to do it all

By Tracy-Ann Oberman, October 7, 2011

I am currently on tour with the National Theatre in an exciting piece of writing by Mike Bartlett. The play, Earthquakes in London, is the sort that I wish I'd seen as a young teenager.

Its breakneck speed, dazzling set, modern language and audacious use of music and dance would have blown away my perceptions of what a theatrical experience could and should be. The first time I remember going to the theatre was when I was about 11-years-old and was taken for a mid-week special outing. My very excited Mum told my sister and I: "You are going to love this! It's about a Salvation Army girl falling in love with a Nogoodnick and it's got great songs."

An hour into the piece, as my sister Debra and I shuffled on our seats throwing Maltesers at each other, with no let up in the incessant talking from the promised songs, mum realised that Guys and Dolls and Major Barbara by George Bernard Shaw were two separate entities.

One involved a long philosophical debate about work and the rights of the man in the middle; the other had the rousing number "Sit Down You're Rocking The Boat" in the middle section.

Earthquakes In London, on the other hand, always has amongst its audience a number of student types up on their feet clapping , crying, sometimes furious but all of them wanting to talk about the ideas afterwards in the bar.

They're 'buzzed up' and go away having had a meaningful experience. I mention this because sometimes, as I did only the other night, I sit in my dressing room, frantically applying stage make up while trying to make sure that my little daughter has done her reading assignment for school, the cat has been deloused, Mr O has bought the apple and honey for Rosh Hashanah, flowers have been sent to loved ones for New Year wishes and the play I have recently been commissioned to write will be able to meet its deadlines.

I catch my wild eyes and wonder why I’m doing all this

I catch my wild eyes in the mirror and wonder why I'm doing all this.

The whole question of why as a working mother I nearly kill myself to make it all possible came into focus the other week courtesy of Mad Men, set in the heady world of 1960s New York advertising. Men were kings in the boardroom and masters of their own and other people's bedrooms. And the women were 'just' wives, or secretaries who were desperate to become wives.

They say the past is a foreign country and if Mad Men is as authentic as the critics insist, then watching these gals being spoken to as if they were just pieces of interchangeable cattle, holding little or no status in the work place and even less at home, was a major eye opener.

One male wag entertains the other parents at a childrens birthday party with the following: "Your wife and your lawyer are drowning. You have a choice to make. Do you go to lunch or a movie!" Cue guffaws by the dads, glassy eyed looks from the mums.

If, 50 years on, I am able to choose to be a wife and a mother and feel value in what I do for a living, then amen to that.

Last updated: 10:23am, October 7 2011