EFR - Review of Be My Baby

Be My Baby

Fri 5th – Sat 13th August 2011

reviews

Madeleine Stottor

at 08:56 on 14th Aug 2011

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Modern feminism is a many-headed monster. Today’s women champion their gender using high-profile jobs, the vote, slut walks, and what seems to be everything in between. But for all the different and at times competing brands of feminism the twenty-first century contains, there are certain principles all would agree: for example, a woman’s right to make her own choices. ‘Be My Baby’ is set, however, in a 1960s Manchester of sexual naivety and social stigma, and this compelling play is a reminder of how far we have come.

Amanda Whittington’s centres on nineteen year old Mary Adams (Daria Callah), who is taken by her mother (Susie Coreth) to a religious young mothers’ home when she falls pregnant – but without being married. The friends she makes while there all have their own ‘fall’ to deal with. Each one’s situation began uniquely, but comes to the same tragic end, as they are forced to give up their children for adoption; as one, Queenie (Emily Bell) points out, if there were any other option, she would have found it. Information about the characters’ past is revealed only gradually, so that by the end of the play each has real depth. Adelaide Waldrop’s Matron and Susie Coreth’s Mrs Adams are initially easy to take against, as the audience feels more sympathy for the girls whose choices they are apparently limiting. But as we begin to understand their own pasts, their motivations become clearer.

‘Be My Baby’ is performed by Domina Productions, a theatre company with a specific focus on providing opportunities for young women in theatre. What is so remarkable about this production is the consistent skill shown by all the young women involved. These actresses are young, as young as their characters, but portray their courage and pain successfully. The stand-out performance for me was by Jennifer Russel as Norma. Her reaction to giving up her baby was incredibly moving and her distress seemed so genuine. Emily Bell’s Queenie was similarly impressive, as she managed to convey the outwardly-brash but inwardly-vulnerable girl effectively. Though dealing with serious subject matter, ‘Be My Baby’ is, thankfully, not all doom-and-gloom, and tragic-comic moments arise from the script’s wordplay and a fantastically naive Dolores (Hayley Camis). 60s music provides the girls of St Saviours’ with much needed escape, and serves to bridge scenes too. Excellent direction from Betsy Andrews makes ‘Be My Baby’ a tight, professional production, and credit is also due to Anna McDonald, for producing such simple, yet arresting publicity for the play.

A dead phone battery meant that I had to run through the rain to make it to ‘Be My Baby’ on time. But make it I did, and I am incredibly glad to have seen it in its final performance at the Fringe. Consistently strong acting, great direction, and a fantastic script make this play really enjoyable to watch, despite its less than joyful subject matter.

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