Pros: Sincere insight into real mother daughter relationships, plus a slap up meal to boot.
Cons: Slightly isolating experience for me as an audience member.
Like Mother, Like Daughter is not a play but a conversation between mothers and mothers, daughters and daughters, and mothers and daughters together – no professional actors. It is created and performed by its participants, who take turns sitting around a dining table asking questions of one another that they read from cards – for the first time. As the audience on Wednesday we were privileged to listen in on private mother-daughter conversations that interrogated differences in upbringing, personalities, and belief. It was very intimate, and the reality of their answers, their unexpected responses, meant it carried all the energy of a fictional drama.
As easy walk from the clamourous horror of Clapham Junction Station, the Battersea Arts Centre is a stunning building of luscious red brick and stone, with the type of grand staircase that makes you say stupid things like, “what a great venue for a wedding” (because that’s what a bride in a full length organza silk needs?). By staging this performance in the grand Library rooms upstairs it felt even more homely, and further away from my traditional concept of a visit to the theatre. The soft evening light provided a natural set, and rather than props, collages made by the participants provided context to the ‘characters’ we were about to meet. Audience members were seated in the round like a second tier of invisible diners at the table, making it that touch more personal, more close. The questions themselves were quite close too, and provocative; would I feel comfortable having this conversation with my mum? Not sure!
The four pairs of mothers and daughters each belonged to different faiths, and a number of the questions centred on how important this was within their lives. As an atheist I felt slightly isolated – where was my representative at the table? Given that, I completely understand the show has been designed around faith, so that was the conversation they were having. Nevertheless I felt excluded as an audience member; a bit like the time I did the Alpha course and sat in a room with twenty Christians with the remit to talk about suffering. It’s a similar experience to going on holiday. You’ll never feel more vociferously British than when you are abroad in a land where you don’t speak the language or eat the cuisine.
On this night at BAC the cuisine was fantastic. Don’t worry, I’m not confused, this isn’t a restaurant review. After the performance we were all invited to share a meal in the other rooms of the Library, the mothers and daughters scattered amongst us – also our generous chefs for the evening! At table we were served a beautifully tasty dal that I won’t forget for a long time. The warm hospitality eased us into comfortable chat, and it was a nice opportunity to talk to the woman next to me about her experience as a mother and a daughter. A very thought-provoking evening.
A question on one of the very first cards asked of one mother, what is the point of theatre? I loved her answer: “theatre should change you, whether your mood or your opinions or even the way you dress it should change you“. Like Mother, Like Daughter has definitely broadened my understanding of what qualifies as theatre so in that respect it has succeeded in producing change.
Curators: Complicite Creative Learning & Why Not Theatre
Running Until: 6 June 2015
Box Office: 020 7223 2223
Booking Link: https://www.bac.org.uk/content/36432/see_whats_on/whats_on/shows/like_mother_like_daughter