When you think of circus, what immediately comes to mind? Death defying stunts? Unimaginable tricks? Adrenaline fuelled sequences? Heart racing music? A genre I’m sure you’ll agree associated with the awe-inspiring, circus, just like a piece of drama can be versatile, and Me, Mother is a considered example of this.
Me, Mother draws on the awe-inspiring in an alternative sense; the awe-inspiring phenomemnon of being a mother. Circus more often than not is about the presentation, the final product. The audience are however not privy to the intense rehearsal process that proceeds this incredible art form. Performers study for years to refine their craft, the blood, the sweat, and the tears the unglamourous price paid for perfection. Add on the fact that for a performer who has given birth, their body changes, changing the approach to training and the possibilities of what can and can’t be done. Me, Mother is an education, establishing a depth in its 70 minutes that I haven’t experienced in any other circus show prior to this and this is to be applauded.
Part installation, part performance, the show allows for a conversation to take place. This narrative-wise is extremely important, elaborating on the theme of motherhood impacting us all, whether you’re male or female. “Everyone here has a mother” is a line that resonates and reverberates throughout the evening, although uttered the once, it serves as a reminder of the importance of this subject matter. Greeted by a multitude of pieces of paper cascading from the ceiling, it’s as if the audience are wondering through a labyrinthine chain of thought; rehearsal notes and thoughts adorning the space, with the chance for audience members to contribute by answering a question on a post it note and placing it onto the paper filled installation. An intriguing concept drawing the audience into a setting of authenticity.
It’s this authenticity that blankets the evening, presenting a backstage/behind the scenes aura that shows the cast’s fearlessness. White material dangling from the ceiling presents video clips of the ensemble addressing the theme of mother hood and what the circus means to them. This is beautifully futuristic, yet has an archaic nature to it due to the simplicity of the use of material, however loses out on the possibility of being truly engrossing due to videos playing simultaneously and competing to be heard which proves to be very distracting.
Matilda Layser, Grania Pickard, Linn Broden, Tina Koch and Charlotte Mooney, all respected circus performers and practitioners in their own right bear their intimate stories of motherhood to the audience, each of them to be commended for doing so. None of them present this with a circus sequence, although routines do feature, they present their stories to the audience without any gimmicks, accompanied… by Elizabeth Westcott‘s charming live musical accompaniment as if to suggest they will not hide behind a routine, and for this they are beacons of inspiration. The ensemble show a real sense of love for their craft, and a respect for one another. The evening is authentic, it’s cathartic, there are no airs or graces and that makes Me, Mother a unique piece of devised theatre to watch.
Review written by Lucy Basaba.
Me, Mother was shown at the Roundhouse from Thursday 21st until Saturday 23rd April as part of this year’s Circus Fest.