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OTG's autumn 2008 production of My Mother Said I Never Should directed by Aldyth Thompson was performed at the Pegasus Theatre.
Reviews of the show appeared in the Oxford Times and in Daily Information. A gallery of images from the production is available here.
picture from the performance Cast, from left to right: Laura Bromley (Jackie), Cathy Oakes (Doris), Emma Blake (Margaret), Tania Higgins (Rose)
Photo: Felicity Peacock
A gallery of pictures from the production is available to view.

OXFORD TIMES - James Benefield

Charlotte Keatley’s gentle, nostalgic and also vaguely feminist drama My Mother Said I Never Should was the latest production by the ever-reliable Oxford Theatre Guild.

Set in Manchester and London, it tells the story of four generations of women from the same family. The play explores the characters’ connections in terms of family and gender, and examines how society shapes and changes people over time. There is a non-linear, playful narrative structure in operation which encourages you to draw thematic parallels, rather than forming the cohesive story of the characters in your mind.

It was a low-key piece for the Guild; it’s not a play of particular wit, insight or dramatic tension. Instead, it provided a meandering, sometimes languid (the two-and-a-half hours of its running time did seem somewhat longer at points) account of the women’s changing lives and roles in society, peppered with lightly humorous touches and drenched in the kind of nostalgia that Alan Bennett fans would recognise. That said, it’s not a bad play by any means, and the programme told us it frequently appeared on A-level syllabuses.

It worked as well as it did because the four-strong cast was terrific. It’s hard to pick between Cathy Oakes, Emma Blake, Laura Bromley and Tania Higgins; their performances were shot through with emotional candour, which lifted them above any ‘three ages of women’ stereotypes the writing occasionally falls foul of.

The production was solid, and sympathetic to the play’s emotional core. There was too much repetition of the same nursery rhymes, music and chants played over the speakers during the sometimes quite lengthy scene changes. But it was well directed, (Aldyth Thompson) and moved at a fluid pace.

Although an unusual choice for the company, My Mother Said I Never Should was a refreshingly different play which was worth seeing for fans of Alan Bennett. Well-performed and decently directed, it is, in the best possible sense, a worthy night out.



Funny, engrossing, poignant, & award-winning - a contemporary play by Charlotte Keatley.

Four daughters, three mothers, two grandmothers and a great grand mother; Charlotte Keatley's play My Mother Said I Never Should is an exploration of mother/daughter relationships across generations, dealing with the standard slew of female family issues. Single motherhood, family break-up, career prioritisation, jealousy and deceit are all dealt with across a lengthy two hours and 40 minutes, with greater or lesser degrees of success.

The story revolves around the fateful decision of a mother to give up care of her daughter to the grandmother, and inevitable repercussions which follow, but the key issue of the play as I see it is control. Mothers try to exert control over their own daughters while, being daughters themselves, they strive to break free from their own mothers' attempts to control them.

This is definitely modern theatre; the story is presented in a staccato of short scenes, which jump from one set of characters to another. Unfortunately, the many scene changes take a little too long and break the atmosphere, while the looped set change sound effects quickly begin to grate. The sideline plot, following a group of little girls, also becomes vexing; the link to the main story is dubious and the children always seemed to shout and fidget, as if they'd had far too many sherbet sweeties.

Though the portrayal of children was suspect, the way the older generations were represented was often spot-on. The frailty, resignation and regret attributed to the great-grandmother were beautifully done, and the bitterness of the grandmother was very convincing indeed. While the acting was sometimes clearly amateur (cups full of hot chocolate swung carelessly, a pain in the stomach instantly forgotten) I was still genuinely moved towards the end.

As with many things, the way in which you approach this play will determine how much you enjoy it. At £8.50 one should not expect the Royal Shakespeare Company, and if you go in with such expectations all you will be able to see are the holes. But if you come expecting simply to be entertained, to laugh a little, and to be moved a little, you will not be disappointed. My Mother Said I Never Should is a perfectly acceptable piece of amateur modern theatre.


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