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The Union Theatre presents

 

BE MY BABY

 

Writer: Amanda Whittington

 

Director: Steve Miller

 

Choreographer: Raymond Tait

 

Board Operator: Yana Demchenko

 

Union Theatre

 

9 – 27 February 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A review by Jafar Iqbal for EXTRA! EXTRA!

Allow me to begin this review with a couple of clichés, in no particular order. Firstly, looks can be deceiving. And secondly, don’t judge a book by its cover. No, this isn’t me boasting about my knowledge of overused proverbs (though the admiration is appreciated); no, this is actually perhaps the best way to describe the experience of watching Be My Baby at the Union Theatre.

Of course, the clichés only really apply here because I’m a man watching a play that, on the surface, seems tailor-made for a female audience. Allow me to explain:

Be My Baby was the brainchild of writer Amanda Whittington back in 1998, when it had its initial successful run at the Soho Theatre. Located in Northern England in the mid-sixties, the play focuses on the hardships faced by unmarried mothers and the injustices they were forced to suffer.

In particular, we are following the journey of Mary (Hannah-Jane Pawsey), sent to an Unmarried Mothers Home after ‘making a mistake’ with her boyfriend. Forced to live in this hostel, Mary has to come to terms with the fact that she will have to give her baby up for adoption as soon as it is born.

It’s for this reason, then, that a man could be forgiven for thinking this isn’t a play for him. This couldn’t be further from the truth, of course. What sets Be My Baby apart is that it’s not really a play about female empowerment or a reflection on the gender divide back in the sixties. Yes, these themes are touched upon because it’s difficult not to avoid them. But, at the heart, this production just seeks to focus on the women themselves. It is a snapshot into the life being led by girls within that hostel – rather than the expected political stance, this is an altogether more personal and intimate perspective.

Much more so than Mary, this is proven through the other three girls in the hostel and, in particular, Queenie (played excellently by Jemma Hines). Queenie has stopped fighting against her fate, more than happy now to spend her days listening to the record player and ready to give her unborn child up. Under the surface, though, they are all desperate to remain mothers, and this is where the story reaches its emotional climax.

Be My Baby isn’t a very emotionally charged production – we do become very invested in the characters and want them to succeed, but are never really taken past first gear. The result is a very light-hearted two hours of entertainment. This is helped by an excellent soundtrack made up of sixties superstars like Dusty Springfield, throwing us into that world and enhancing the nostalgia factor.

Of the performances, Hines as Queenie and Pawsey as Mary definitely stand out. The two have great chemistry on stage, and the strength of the characters is essential in driving the story forward. Not to take anything away from the other girls though – Kimberley Hart-Simpson is adorable as Dolores, and Georgia Christou cannot help but garner sympathy as her baby is taken away from her. Celia Williams and Jan Hirst make up the rest of the cast with equally solid performances, but the play definitely belongs to the girls.

This is a good play that has been produced with a lot of care and attention, showing through the honest performances of its cast. Though not creating the same amount of impact as other productions at the Union Theatre, it is still definitely worth a look. Man and woman alike.

 

Box Office: 020 7261 9876

Tuesday – Saturday 7.30pm

 Tickets: £12 / £10 Concessions

Union Theatre

204 Union Street, London SE1 0LX

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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