Three Mothers, each with three stories; three relationships with their children; three reflections on their sense of belonging, of home – more specifically, on migration. One is a mother who sends her son away for a better life; one who herself returns to where she grew up; one is running away from her homeland to her motherland with her precious babe.
Matilda Velevitch writes interweaving monologues that vaguely connect together, but don’t depend sufficiently on each other to provide a natural flow. In the end, Three Mothers is a separate set of intriguing narratives that loses impact every time the stories overlap. The whole is not greater than each part in Janys Chambers’ production.
Khady (Clare Perkins) sends her son away from Senegal to find a better life, claiming asylum in Europe. Her reasons are practical – in place of her deceased husband, he must make the journey, find a job and send back money for the family. Perkins combines matter of fact practicality with the emotional burden of motherhood, a clever dichotomy of irrational worrying and plucky realism. Her resilience shines through this particular strand, determined to make her own way out of life below the breadline, “Destiny only comes to those who keep going”.
Septuagenarian Gisela (Roberta Kerr) returns to the Bavarian town she grew up in, only to find that the recent influx of asylum seekers has changed her village dynamic drastically. But she does her bit to provide support and assistance for those who have made the difficult journey from their war-torn countries. Kerr is immediately likeable, a gentle sense of humour that takes pleasure in the simple things, as she tries to rediscover her identity after her husband’s death left her adrift. There is tenderness at the heart of Kerr’s performance, a desire to help those in need that invites the audience into her emotional recollections.
The story with the most weight is that of Gisela’s mother Erika (Victoria Brazier), babe in arms as she struggles to cross back into Germany amidst the devastation of World War Two. Brazier stubbornly persists, putting one foot in front of the other while the other stories continue around her. There is a laudable contrast between the steady rhythm of Brazier’s pace and the erratic, desperate need of her delivery. The undercurrent is one of unrelenting hope that over the next hill will come salvation, “Hope is not a strategy”.
The three narratives can be described separately because they don’t quite link together in Chambers’ production. Velevitch’s Three Mothers feels too much like a set of monologues that seek to form an overarching theme. Small touches here and there allow the worlds to bleed together – actors fill in for non-speaking characters in each world to allow some furtive human contact. But it feels too much like flicking between different TV channels, instead of three perspectives on a common ideology.
Three Mothers ends with hope – after all, what else is there to do but hope? You keep putting one foot in front of the other and believe in the maternal instinct that protects both yourself and your children. This heart-warming set of plots has that drive to proceed, but needs more variation or impetus to drive its true message home.
Director: Janys Chambers
Producer: Deborah Dickinson for Useful Productions
Writer: Matilda Velevitch
Composer: David Ridley
Design: Jane Linz-Roberts
Cast: Clare Perkins; Roberta Kerr; Victoria Brazier
Three Mothers plays at Waterloo East Theatre until 12 November 2017. For more information or to book tickets, please visit the website.