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The Wedding Speech by Cheryl May Coward-Walker

When leaving The Wedding Speech I was shocked by how much I laughed and how jolly my mood was. After waking up the next morning, I found myself, in contrast, somberly reflecting on certain lines, and the coexistence of maternal love and pain you see so frequently. Throughout the show, we are shown a realistic and captivating depiction of how difficult it can be for a woman to have a ‘healthy’ relationship with her mother. Rosemary’s (Princess Donnough) mum makes it especially difficult.

The Wedding Speech - Photographer Emma Nwachuku.
The Wedding Speech – Photographer Emma Nwachuku.

Rosemary is going through a whirlwind of emotions in the toilet while preparing her daughter-of-the-bride speech. She knows she needs help and often breaks the fourth wall involving the audience in the process. So, I was right there with her throughout the chaos. And yes, lots of it is chaos, but the kind of chaos you encounter when you are helping a friend through tumultuous times. It’s familiar, funny, and oddly heartwarming because of its relatability. We are taken through Rosemary’s emotional whirlwind quite smoothly. And I think what helps is the writer’s (Cheryl May Coward-Walker) use of rhyme in Rosemary’s speech. It’s subtle but effective in entrapping you and allows you to remember certain lines with ease.

At the beginning of The Wedding Speech, Rosemary expresses a sort of acceptance regarding her relationship with her mother. It is bitingly realistic to what I feel is common for coping with a dysfunctional, perhaps abusive parent. there is also a deep sadness that is most distinctly expressed in scenes referencing the holiday to Nigeria Rosemary and her mum took. She transitions through this sadness and begrudging acceptance frequently but sewn throughout is deep empathy and yearning for her mother’s vulnerability that go hand in hand.

The mother’s trauma is discussed in fleeting bits. She believes this contributes greatly to her mother’s anger and really feels for her. She hopes her mother can finally open up with this new partner and experience the happiness Rosemary, at this point, feels her mother really deserves.

At approximately the hour mark, towards the end, I was shocked and greatly amused by the attempted reckoning Rosemary launches at her mother. This incorporates her throwing items and storming off stage, and it’s the scene where Simone Watson Brown’s direction shines. After being told there is not enough time for her speech, she reveals her pregnancy and lashes out against her husband. All the while screaming at her mother, finally unleashing years of anger.

Both her pregnancy and marriage have received sporadic mention up until this point and are used to show how her relationship with her mother has infected other areas of her life. Rosemary is called emotionally immature by her husband, and I can’t help but agree with him. I feel bad because Rosemary does seem like a friend to me now, but it can’t be ignored. A lack of parental support and an abundance of criticism has left Rosemary co-dependent with her mother and lacking the skills to be a healthy adult.

Why I felt so happy when leaving this show, not just because I experienced deep laughter, but I also felt a deep sense of connection with Rosemary and others in the audience. I left with the hope that rosemary could heal. The Wedding Speech is a play with layers, it stayed with me and led me to great reflection also with an urge to heal myself from my own (in comparison quite minor) parental scars. This is the play to see if you’re looking to laugh and/or deal with some introspection on your own emotional upbringing.

4 stars

Review by Elisabeth Beer

Rosemary is about to do a speech at her mother’s wedding. She’s not quite sure how to hit the right note as the relationship between Rosemary and her mother has been…less-than-rosy. As she revs up for her big moment on her mother’s Big Day, we realise maybe the apple hasn’t fallen very far from the tree.
The Wedding Speech is a dramatic comedy about codependency and toxic parenting. It explores a toxic bond between a glamourous and critical mother and her long-suffering daughter.

Cast: Princess Donnough
Writer: Cheryl May Coward-Walker
Director: Simone Watson-Brown
Producer: Holly McComish
Artwork: The Other Richard and Hall Creative

Camden Peoples Theatre
London NW1 2PY
15 to 19 November
Tuesday to Saturday at 9.00pm

The Hope Theatre
207 Upper Street
London N1 1RL
29 November to 3 December
Tuesday to Saturday 7:45pm

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2 thoughts on “The Wedding Speech by Cheryl May Coward-Walker”

  1. The myriad feelings between parents and children are usually seen through the prism of the moment. How does one boil down years of family interactions? There is always so much to say with never enough time to say it. The people are the players and time is the play. The fourth wall is only broken in retrospect.

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