Mothers. We have all, at one point or another, had one. They all do more or less the same job and yet they are incredibly different. From earth mothers to career girls, these women form the future of humanity. So it should follow that they are celebrated accordingly. The Good Enough Mums Club provides a clever, funny, and painfully accurate insight into the joys and miseries that accompany motherhood. This pioneering musical employs mothers to write, compose, direct and perform this emotional roller coaster and more than once, the characters give way to the performers, as the audience is invited to partake in the various shared jokes. The show is clearly formed to unite mothers and, speaking as a man who will never experience motherhood, it provides a solid appreciation for the seemingly endless challenges of maternity.
In the seclusion of a church hall, five women regularly meet with their young children to form a pseudo-therapy session. Pam, Esme, Flo, Aimee and Jenn represent five very different experiences of motherhood each with their individual problems. The group welcomes Esme as its newest member who, having been recently diagnosed with postnatal depression, finds solace in the empathy that flows from the other women. The majority of the group’s members enjoy the protection of the private sessions but judgement and prejudice come in the form of Pam. Pam is envied by the other women in the group due to her seemingly firm grasp on parenting yet, as the sessions progress, it becomes clear that cracks are forming in her crystalline exterior.
Upon entering the cosy performance space I immediately think that this is going to be an angry and defensive protestation against the world’s views of the stay at home mother. Surveys are passed around the audience asking our opinions of a good mother and whether our own mothers should have behaved differently and the cast watch eagerly as the responses are penned. However, it is not an argument that is being sought; we are actually being invited into the inner circle. Throughout the piece, the characters psychoanalyse one another, supporting them through their troubles and making knowing glances at the numerous mothers in the audience. It’s actually a joy to behold; a celebration of women in a time that is often so delicate and full of doubt. To say that the cast are talented would be an understatement. Clever and intricate harmonies swell inside the room as each of the catchy and quirky songs emerge and the characters are masterfully presented with ease and natural stage presence. Katherine Toy and Jade Samuels as Jenn and Flo respectively have the audience almost choking with crude jokes while Michaela Ellis and Anna Byworth as Aimee and Esme provide grounded and genuine sadness. Rebecca Bainbridge’s supercilious Pam cleverly embodies the theme of judgement that this show aims to deconstruct.
This production comes as a refreshing change from the glitzy, and often unachievable, stories that musical theatre thrusts at us. Encouraging us to consider the very real challenges that face every mother, it shows that there is in fact no correct way to go deal with them. The perfect mother is, as all advertisements are, non-existant. The Good Enough Mums Club is an expertly crafted show that asks for support rather than castigating the rest of the world for its actively judgmental stance.
Reviewed by Alex Foott
The Good Enough Mums Club plays at the Three Stags, Kennington until 20th July.