Pros: The bleak honesty of Motherhood or Madness and Eoin McKenna’s top-notch comedic delivery in Specky Ginger C*nt.
Cons: Motherhood or Madness could benefit from a more imaginative lighting design, whereas Specky Ginger C*nt plunges too deeply into hopeless drama.
In a renewed climate of female emancipation, women are unafraid to address motherhood in dispassionate tones. No longer seen as a gift from god, nor a state of bliss, it is often considered a mere inconvenience, a life-changing event over which some have very little control.
In Motherhood or Madness, Didi Cederström embodies a young and neurotic mother, afraid to open up about her relationship with her daughter, for fear of attracting censure. Alone and misunderstood, she struggles to admit the unbridgeable distance with her little girl, her own genuine lack of interest and even the feeling of revulsion that she ashamedly conceals from her husband.
Raw and painfully honest, this monologue hits the darkest side of maternal instinct – or, in this case, the lack thereof. A mother who doesn’t feel any connection with her daughter describes her experience to an invisible audience, with a note of regret for the self-effacement that her role entails.
The static lighting contributes to the bleak impression, although it feels too loyal to the realism of the scene, rather than devoted to the need of theatrical effects. Fortunately, Cederström softens the tones with some much-needed irony and, despite the absence of hopeful signals, the play concludes on a high note.
After the interval, Eoin McKenna takes to the stage with a complex character oozing autobiographical flavour. A natural comedian, he captivates the audience with top-notch punch lines and a skillful use of deadpan.
The light-hearted introduction touches on some issues caused by his being ginger, and the painful decision to leave the provinces to pursue further education in the big city. Then the tone suddenly plunges and we learn of his refusal to perform a gender role and his views on sexuality as a spectrum.
The topics become increasingly sombre until they reach an elaborate analysis of some personality disorders as a consequence of what he calls ‘daddy issues’. An absent and careless father, unable to assume his responsibilities and perform his role appropriately is at the base of fears, insecurities and an overall sense of failure.
McKenna’s lengthy and dramatic closure inevitably leaves a bitter aftertaste, concluding a play where his humorous vein and polished delivery shine brightest.
Stemming from individual projects and cleverly paired, these two perspectives on questionable parenthood feel fresh and compelling. Their relevance as a double bill lies in their highlighting both points of view on the issue, that of the victim, as well as that of the perpetrator. With a more imaginative design and a little tweak of the dramatic balance, they’re surely ready to provoke even more audiences in a longer run.
Motherhood or Madness
Written and Performed by: Didi Cederström
Directed by: Samantha Robinson
Specky Ginger C*nt
Written and Performed by: Eoin McKenna
Directed by: Pollyanna Newcombe
Producer: To The Bone Theatre Company
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run.