Female-led theatre covers every topic imaginable, but one subject that you would expect to be insightful is what’s motherhood REALLY like. The inception of The Good Enough Mums Club began several years ago with theatremaker Emily Beecher. After suffering from postpartum depression for a significant amount of time, an official diagnosis of her condition took the weight of ‘shame’ and ‘inadequacy’ off Beecher’s shoulders. The epiphany that all mothers have felt they are ‘winging it’ – whether they have been diagnosed with postnatal depression or not – opened her eyes to the possibility of showcasing the collective female experience…
Conducting workshops with mothers across the country, Beecher and fellow co-producers Sarah Shead and Jade Samuels have collected anecdotes that have inspired the characters that will feature in the fully-developed version of the show in the near-future. In the meantime, Beecher and musical supervisor Verity Quade have crafted all the songs that feature in the show, and the present concert tour is a celebration of this.
Sung by Belinda Wollaston, Jade Samuels, Emma Williams, Emma Odell and Sinéad Mathias-Medeiros, the songs of the show range from the funny, yet frank account of pregnancy (‘Nine Months’) to songs that reflect the personal circumstances of the individual characters in the forthcoming show. For Williams’ character, Pam, she represents those lucky people who always seem to have ‘got it together’ – unfazed, organised and immaculately dressed. But behind the ‘supermum’ exterior appearances can be deceiving… There are other characters like Chantel (play by Jade Samuels) who finds her local playgroup comes under threat of closure by the local council. As this lifeline with other mothers is about to be taken away, Chantel’s response is understandably one of annoyance and not accepting this state of affairs. Then there are other characters such as Michelle (played by Sinead Mathias-Medeiros) whose black son is already feeling the pressures from society to ‘grow up fast’ and she worries about what may become of him. Broadly speaking, all the ‘character’ songs in the show are deeply personal and moving, while the songs that are sung collectively are lighter in tone and of a more general nature.
Prior to the musical segment of the show, Beecher spends a lot of time with the audience, playing games that not only ‘break the ice’, but obliquely prepares them for the funny, candid and cathartic evening that lies ahead. Games such a ‘Never Have I Ever…’ reveal that all parents have embarassing stories to tell, that they sometimes tell ‘little white lies’ to their children, that – in short – they are not ‘perfect’. But sometimes being ‘good’ is good enough…
Judging by the response by the audience on the evening I attended, the stories and experiences shared by the cast to the audience and vice versa was mutually cathartic. Every woman weighs up society’s expectations of mothers with their own self-worth. Despite the fact there is often a gap between the two, the knowledge that all women feel this can create solidarity and this show is certainly a conduit for that.
© Michael Davis 2021
The Good Enough Mums Club ‘concert’ ran at the Birmingham Hippodrome on 18th-19th Novmber. The dates and venues of the rest of the tour can be seen below.