Mother May I? – Theatre Upstairs, Dublin

First Published March 2013

MOTHERMAYI - Theatre Upstairs

Writer: Ranae Von Meding

Director: Steve Gunn

This 50 minute performance introduces the audience to a woman, the only character to grace the stage, who takes the audience from her childhood with a born again Christian mother through to her difficult adult life. The effect of her upbringing is unravelled through a powerful monologue that delves into the question of can you ever break away from your surroundings? If your nature is suppressed from an early age, how will it manifest itself later in life? Fitting in doesn’t seem to always be the best option.

As the audience walk in the stage is in semi darkness with music playing and blue spotlights lighting up the stage. These are used at vital points throughout the play, as the contrast between dark and the bright blue light are used to chime in with dramatic moments in the performance. In each corner of the stage pint glasses, filled with varying amounts of water, take up much of the space and hanging from the ceiling are a dozen custard cream biscuits. The reason for this is discovered later in the play and is an excellent example of the way the stage and setting can become an active part of a performance. This was furthered by the clever use of inverted colours and shapes decorating the back wall and floor.

The title refers to both the familial and religious undertones of the play which seem particularly recognisable in modern Ireland. The religious undertone runs throughout the play yet Von Meding manages to prevent this from overwhelming the text. Taking the audience on a journey through her characters life the mother figure is a running theme that unites the beginning and the ending. The play is well written meaning that the point is never laboured and the audience feel entertained, not lectured to. This is an investigation into what happens to a person who is bought up knowing nothing but suppression, who was taught guilt and shame from a young age, and is unable to understand how these fit into her later life. Finding a way to try to survive she learns to deceive, becoming so good at it that she deceives herself. However in the end she realises that in trying to be forced into measuring up to societal norms, she has lost a little of herself in the process.

Ranae Von Meding acts as both writer and actor which works surprisingly well. With her thorough and deep understanding of the text, as actress Von Meding makes the play and nameless character believable. Spiked with humour this is an engaging watch that keeps the audience’s attention. This is a strong debut from Von Meding as a writer and it will be interesting to see what she does next, having displayed her ability as both a capable writer and actor in Mother May I? Hopefully this will be the first of many outings as writer for Von Meding.

 Photo courtesy of Theatre Upstairs. Runs Until April 4th 2015.

Review Overview

The Public Reviews’ Score: 3.5*