The likes of Hannah Khalil, Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, Sarah Niles and Juno Dawson deliver some excellent work in The Motherhood Project
“There’s so much talk of being perfect mums”
Ripping off the rose-tinted glasses and gagging any hint of yummy mummies with a used nappy, The Motherhood Project takes an uncompromising look at motherhood, shining a light on the things that the books don’t, or won’t, tell you. Suhayla El Bushra talks about the way it affects friendship, Jodi Gray and Katherine Kotz herself investigate the maternal instinct or lack thereof, Kalhan Barath speaks of her choice not to have children… Kotz, who is also the curator of the project, has gathered a mixture of monologues and musings, 15 short films in all, all seeking to redefine the modern myths around motherhood.
There’s eight new monologues here, plus one repurposed one, making this a significant piece of new theatre writing. Jenni Maitland details the traumatising physical effects of childbirth in Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s Inside Me, how it can fundamentally alters women’s relationship with their bodies, an issue already skewed by societal pressures of the feminine ‘ideal’. Hannah Khalil also delves deep into the hidden truths of becoming a parent through the medium of the (useless) advice she was given, the lyrical bent of Suited perfectly matched by Caroline Byrne’s expressionist direction and a quietly blistering performance from Emmanuella Cole
Around the theatre of it all, there’s a loose collection of personal reflections which provides a different texture scattered throughout. Lemn Sissay exploring what society does to damage vulnerable women through and after pregnancy, Juno Dawson working around the intersection of motherhood and womanhood in a highly erudite and entertaining manner (Victoria Beckham’s role as a cultural touchstone deserves its own show…), Siggi Mwasote wrenching her personal experiences to the surface in a piece that is almost too much to bear to listen to, never mind live through.
The monologue Gunk probably stands out the most for me. A howl of existential outrage from Irenosen Okojie at a broken society riven by systemic inequities, Sarah Niles’ mother rakes her good-for-nothing son over the coals for the decisions he has made and that he has yet to make too. Told in voiceover, Akinola Davies Jr’s scorching direction details a city on the brink, identifying the challenges of trying to heed your ma’s good words. A powerful collection of films that shimmer with artistic integrity just as much as they make you think deeply about how society has conditioned our perceptions of motherhood and rarely for the better.