I never went to a boarding school. Age eleven I was down the local comprehensive five days a week and returning to my loving home for dinner in the evening. However, those that did go through the public school system often say it had a profound effect on their lives and they made relationships that lasted forever. I used the word relationships there deliberately for, as can be seen in Robert Hughes’ new play Mum’s the Word at the Hen and Chickens Theatre, you can’t always call these coming together of people friendship.
The ‘Wine and Dandy’ bar in Soho and Jess (Danielle Williams) is sat at a table by herself, a waiter approaches and kisses her. Even in Soho, this overly familiar type of behaviour would normally be considered odd, but the waiter is in fact, Jess’s boyfriend Aidan (Lewis Clarke). Tonight though Aiden is just a waiter as Jess is meeting some friends – well when I say friends, I actually mean that Jess is about to undergo the annual ordeal of meeting up with her old school roommates. As Aiden gets the wine, the first to arrive is Em (Emily Bairstow) a well dressed and, let’s be honest, snooty lady who is as quick to chat someone up as she is to put her ‘friends’ down. Next in is the petit and rather sweet Heidi (Lizzie Grace) and the trio finally becomes a quartet with the arrival of smart trouser suit wearing political aide Belinda (Bella Balfe). The four ladies settle down to drink, catch up and bitch about each other and their respective lives. For four people who only see each other once a year, you would think that they would have a lot to talk about but their conversations don’t really flow and it is obvious that something is not being discussed. However, the arrival of a handsome chap by the name of Nathan (Joseph Passafaro) changes that for everyone.
I have a feeling that writer Robert Hughes either has a lot of female friends or has worked somewhere where there are a lot of ladies.I previously worked in a team where I was the only man and believe me, the conversations were often very similar to those portrayed in Mum’s the Word. The story itself is extremely well written and, in many ways, very believable. The twists – of which there are plenty – come out of nowhere but totally make sense. The very last one is brilliantly done and whilst it wasn’t the ending I was expecting, it finished the show off perfectly.
Director, Adam Buchanan is working with a superb cast, and the four ladies completely inhabit and breathe life into their respective characters making them amazingly real for the audience. All four of them should be commended for their performance as should the chaps. Without giving too much away, I particularly liked the way that Joseph Passafaro managed to make Nathan wonderfully charming but with a real edge to him and given the undoubted believability of his final plans, I definitely wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of him. Whilst Lewis Clarke’s Aidan is not a major character, his use to the story, both as a way of establishing the plot and at various other points – especially the ending – cannot be ignored and Lewis was the perfect Soho waiter.
All in all, Mum’s the Word was an extremely well-crafted play and my only criticism is that due to being only an hour in length, the four girls didn’t really have enough time to firmly establish their characters. For example, I felt that, of the four, I never really got to know that much about Heidi which was shame. Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed the play and – aside from making me glad I never went to an all-girls boarding school – I thought every aspect of the production was really great and the Good One Theatre Company have a real winner on their hands. Mum’s the Word was an extremely well-crafted play and my only criticism is that due to being only an hour in length, the four girls didn’t really have enough time to firmly establish their characters. For example, I felt that, of the four, I never really got to know that much about Heidi which was shame. Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed the play and – aside from making me glad I never went to an all-girls boarding school – I thought every aspect of the production was really great and the Good One Theatre Company have a real winner on their hands.
Review by Terry Eastham
Mum’s the Word
25th – 29th Oct 2016 at 7.30pm £11.50/9.50
1 night. 2 hours. 3 bottles of wine. 4 cabs home. That’s the way the annual meet up goes for the girls of dorm 16. Now, 7 years out of school, they live completely separate lives. There’s only one thing they still have in common. But we don’t talk about that. Ever. Remember, Mums the word.
Hen and Chickens Theatre
109 St Paul’s Road, London, N1 2NA
Box Office: www.unrestrictedview.co.uk/buy-tickets/