Ladies Who Lunch

Four work colleagues reunite after 30 years, in this delightful intergenerational analysis of motherhood. Fourth Wall Theatre have utilised young actors to perform Niamh Collins’ poignant production of pensioners revisiting their experiences of parenthood. Subsequent to thirty years of silence, they reminisce on their experiences – each with their own preconceptions and prejudices about the ultimate performance of parenthood.

A compelling critique on the nature of womanhood

Sally, Jean, Vera and Sandra chew over memories alongside bites of food, each morsel oozing with intent and perspective. Sally doesn’t suffer fools gladly – she’s survived cancer three times, and is embittered as she recalls her husband abandoning her and her daughter for a new life. Jean had aspirations of moving to Europe, but couldn’t bear the thought of being separated from her adult children. Vera has a big house in the Midlands and considers the family home to be the epicentre of the world. And Sandra doesn’t really know what her husband works as, as long as the money keeps coming in. Sandra arrives with her daughter Lorena, and sparks fly in the group when it’s revealed this next generation woman chose to leave an unhappy relationship and pursue a career in Shanghai, leaving her daughter at home with her father.

Traditional attitudes to femininity, motherhood and liberation are tested in this interesting piece, which is soulfully performed by the five actors. There’s some interesting conversation topics – exploration of the maternal instinct, condemnation and judgement of working mums, and the pressure of growing up with a ‘perfect mum’. Lorena expresses how being coddles gives one a false perspective of life, and can make one feel like ‘the only sponge she made that sunk in the middle’.

The script features interesting concepts, but not new ones. Conventional and dysfunctional parenting dynamics have been a popular theme at the last few Ed Fests, and with a plethora of similar material, it’s difficult to produce something which stands out. Ladies Who Lunch is unique in that it utilises youth to perform age, and the script by Collins is provocative though at times unconvincing. There’s a scene close to the end where Sally expresses that the ultimate sadness in her life has been the silence of her three former colleagues, and that this abandonment rendered her more lonely than when her husband left. I feel this would have been more convincing if the foursome had had a deeper connection than simply that of ex colleagues. This scene left me with a plethora of questions and it would be good to explore more about the factors which silenced Sally back then, rendering her incapable of reaching out through her loneliness and ill health. It’s all too easy to unintentionally forget to remember our friends, and there are thick themes of shame, comparison and blame that could have been built in around this which were understated.

Overall, this is a compelling critique on the nature of womanhood – exploring the lies we tell ourselves to justify the actions we take or don’t take. The piece ends emotively, a satisfying conclusion to an almost unanswerable and irredeemable start in terms of the issues raised. A great way to start the day.

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The Blurb

Sally has enemies. Or she thinks she does. The problem is, they are all old friends. Gathered around a bistro table after 30 years of silence, five mothers pour out their parenting experiences for dissection. Motherhood may be the ultimate competition, but what's the prize? Who's done it well? Who's plagued by regrets and who deep down wishes they had never done it at all? After an explosive run of Yen, Fourth Wall are back with a witty but strikingly poignant drama holding a microphone to the voice we seldom hear: the mother. ***** (TheBubble.org.uk).

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