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Theatre review: My Mum's a Twat

John Nathan enjoys a vividly drawn portrait of a neglected teenage daughter

Royal Court Theatre

    Patsy Ferran
    Patsy Ferran (Picture: Helen Murray)

    This is the Royal Court. The set is a girl’s bedroom. Another revival of My Name is Rachel Corrie? Actually no. What concerns the heroine in Anoushka Warden’s one-woman play is not the Israeli/Palestinian conflict but the emotional vortex experienced by a young girl whose mother has been conscripted into a quasi-religious cult.

    Warden is writing from both her own experience (as the child not the mother) but also from her imagination. This is her first play, but Warden is also the Royal Court’s head of PR and as you might expect of someone steeped in the work of the most revered new writing playhouse in the country, this portrait is vividly drawn.

    The theme is parental neglect. Yet the play is no misery memoir. Rather it is lively, often funny and has a light touch, all qualities embodied by the immensely watchable Patsy Ferran who delivers this sermon of adolescent angst with a cooky charm entirely without affectation.

    Dressed in teenage slacker-wear her unnamed character describes the turmoil of being the progeny of a woman who is more devoted to The Heal Thyself Centre for Self-Realisation and Transcendence than she is to her own children. The group is reportedly a fictional version of the cult that persuaded Warden’s mother to go parentally AWOL and then move to Canada to set up its new branch.

    In terms of plot, the girl’s life pans out in pretty much the way you might expect. Warden’s alter-ego hates her stepdad (aka Moron) and defiance spirals into adolescent rebellion culminating, somewhat inevitably, in teenage sex and drugs. But less familiar and much more illuminating is the interior dialogue of a girl with a mother-shaped hole in her life. “I didn’t really, truly actually think she would leave me. But she did. And without getting too soppy about this shit it was the only time my heart has ever actually hurt.”

    That mother shaped hole, however, exists in the play as well as its protagonist. There is a feeling here that the parent’s perspective would have taken Warden’s writing — and Ferran’s performance — in unexpected directions. But where the piece scores is in nailing that combination of vulnerability and strength that is particular to children who have had to fend for themselves.

    It’s a toss-up as to which of those qualities will later define this girl’s life. But anyone who has met Warden can guess the outcome. Jude Christian and Vicky Featherstone’s production leaves you with a potent image of a child wise beyond her years, forced to grow up by an adult's immaturity.

     

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