Brenda's Got a Baby

Fri 3rd – Sat 25th August 2018

reviews

Shauna Lewis

at 09:03 on 9th Aug 2018

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Fighting class stereotypes, ‘Brenda’s Got A Baby’ follows two sisters on split paths as one gets into university and the other finds out she is pregnant. Showing the difficulties of both journeys, the plays gives into stereotypes at times, but ultimately offers a heart-warming conclusion

The bond between Amy and Brenda fluctuated throughout as they found their own individual happiness, but still supported each other. Katie Mahon as Amy gave a strong performance and her frustration at her position was evident. You wanted to help her along, seeing that she was trapped in an environment where she’d never be able to get to where she wanted to be.

Though Leah Hand’s Brenda sometimes gave into stereotypes of the not-very-clever Northern, by the end her maturity is apparent. Taking on the burden of motherhood, you felt the weight of the outside world pressing in on her in the small room.

The direction and set design also worked really well in the play to give the sense of loneliness the women felt in their position. By only having two actors and having them exit in different doors as they moved in their lives, you felt the isolation they did. It made the play more emotionally effective.

The issues were handled with sensitivity on both sides of each argument. Initially I was worried they were going demean the task of motherhood, but they showed Brenda maturing and the skills she gained. Also, it was valuable to see a feminist play where the woman wasn’t necessarily seeking to be a successful business executive. She demonstrated that everyone has their own individual future planned, all of which are valid.

Molly Rumford’s writing did however give into unnecessary stereotypes now and again, and Brenda’s boyfriend disappeared without a trace or explanation halfway through. Overall though, she worked to destabilise ideas of the working class and against the audience’s perceptions in a way which was cheerful, humorous and moving.

Fun to watch and at times frustrating, the play looks at class issues which run throughout Britain today. ‘Brenda’s Got A Baby’ treats them with enough gravity, but also looks at the bond of the two sisters and shows family to be the most important success of them all.

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Ella Gryf-Lowczowska

at 09:50 on 9th Aug 2018

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Brenda (Leah Hand) is sixteen and at a crossroads in her life. Should she spend her days stocking the shelves at Morrisons or have a baby? At least she’d like to have a baby…

The play is about to start, but before the lights come on the tone is set by a lengthy voice recording played over the loudspeaker. The voice is distinctively Yorkshire and belongs to Katie Mahon, who plays Amy. She asks the playwright Zodwa Nyoni what the difference is between middle class people and working class people. Her Nyoni’s answer? That middle class people have the resources to fulfil their ambitions.

Well, Amy is certified working-class and she reeks of ambition. Amy wants a life beyond the estate, so she works her ass off, resultantly becoming the first member of her family to get into university. Amy swears she won’t have a baby until she has settled into a career. Unlike her sister, Brenda doesn’t want to fly the coup, and that’s fine. Home is where the heart is and Brenda’s heart is with her baby, Tommy, on their council estate. Brenda is tough enough not to care that her oldest friends have lost interest in her now that the novelty of her baby has worn off, but can she come to terms with her sister’s life choices?

“Brenda’s Got A Baby” is a verbatim play based on news stories, interviews, and the personal experiences of its writers. Hailing from council estates themselves, Katie and writer Molly Rumford have first-hand experience of the stigma attached to working class girls and the limited opportunities that are available to them. Katie and Molly are striving to raise awareness and stimulate a debate about the struggle that working class women face between establishing a family and pursuing a career or an education. They have therefore started their own theatre group, The Bloomin’ Buds Theatre Company, and established a local support group in their community centre, where they host ‘Brenda’s Baby Showers’ for the women whose stories are the basis of this play.

Perhaps inevitably, when it comes to discussing the differences between middle- and- working-class life, “Brenda’s Got A Baby” is an utterly one-sided account. However, it is an accurately gritty representation of life from a working class girl’s perspective.

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