A review by James Buxton for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

New End Theatre presents the London premiere of

 

Where's Your Mama Gone?

 

 

by Brian Daniels

 

Directed by Alexa Christopher-Daniels

 

 

New End Theatre

 

 

2 – 28 August 2011

 

Loosely based upon Richard McCann's autobiography, Just a Boy, whose mother was the first victim of Peter Sutcliffe - the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’, Where's Your Mama Gone? chronicles the lives of twins, Stephen (Oliver Ashworth) and Carol Conner (Marie Fortune) after their mother is brutally murdered. Daniels explores the issues of family violence, institutional care and alcohol abuse in a provocative play that examines how British children with no role models can escape from making the same mistakes their parents did.

Where's Your Mama Gone? takes a look at the different ways Stephen and Carol deal with the death of their mother, Kath Connor (Melody Schroeder). Ashworth and Fortune initially portray a typical sibling relationship, teasing and badgering one another, until the cracks in their dysfunctional upbringing start to appear. Christopher-Daniels neatly juxtaposes scenes on the simply arranged set, so while the children stay up late, drinking cans of Fosters and watching Family Fortunes, Kath Connor is out “on the game”. Schroeder conveys a weary working girl convincingly, resigned to making her living with her body. Daniel's script allows Connor to return once she is dead, to seek forgiveness from Stephen, swapping her suspenders and mini skirt for a white dress, she asks her son, in her soft Irish lilt, “Tell me I was a good mum Stevie.”, but he is unable to. Ashworth depicts a tormented young man, who cannot forgive Paul Sutton (Miles Barden) for the murder of his mother. Unable to put the past behind him, he confronts a blinded Sutton in prison, boiling with frustration, resentment and hate. Their confrontation only enrages him further, for instead of finding a repentant man, he discovers a self proclaimed “patient” intoxicated on his own notoriety and self righteous nature. For his sister however, Sutton is not to blame, but rather, it is their lack of a responsible father. Fortune portrays Carol as a reckless alcoholic who cannot take responsibility for her own life. With one baby born and another on the way, she is trapped in a cycle of state benefit dependency, but when the abusive father of her child threatens to take her baby away, she lashes out with devastating consequences.

Daniels play tragically shows how easy it is for ‘looked after children’ to resort to drugs and booze without adequate care and support. Steve does time for selling weed, while Carol tries to kill herself but is put in prison for GBH. Trapped in institutional care, then turned into the topic of a BBC show by the well intentioned Jane Nash, (Georgina Periam), the children are victims of a society which does not communicate with the young, but turns them into reality TV celebrities or violent scapegoats.

According to the 2007 UN report on child well-being in the West, measuring forty indicators of quality of life, such as enjoyment of school, strength of relationships with friends and family, and exposure to alcohol and drugs, British children statistically have the unhappiest upbringings in the developed world. This disillusionment amongst the young has made itself sadly apparent through mass rioting earlier this month, demonstrating the nihilistic anarchy of a generation deprived of opportunity, yet bombarded with advertising, teaching them that success is solely derived from material status.

Daniels’ play is an engaging, inspirational piece with an excellent cast and innovative direction,  which attempts to deal directly with themes that have been swept under the carpet. Rather than placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of serial killer, Sutton, we are asked to take into account the other external factors and social issues that forced the Connors into such hardships. The pay what can you pricing of the show affords those who would not normally visit the theatre a chance to see a play which may resonate with their own lives. In addition, the post show discussion is a potent tool in empowering people to express their own experiences, and provide solutions to a problem which is happening on our streets and in our homes, as we speak.

 
 
New End Theatre
27 New End, Hampstead,
London NW3 1JD
Box Office: 0870 033 2733
Pay what you can basis
Tuesday to Saturday at 7pm
Saturday and Sunday at 3 pm
Thursday matinees at 3pm by arrangement
www.newendtheatre.co.uk
boxoffice@newendtheatre.co.uk
 


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