Review - My Mum's a Twat at the Royal Court

Our critics rating: 
Average press rating: 
Date: 
Thursday, 11 January, 2018
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My Mum's a Twat is probably only a three-star show, but it has a five star title so I'm going to give it an extra star. I know it's early in the year to be making such pronouncements, but it's unlikely that the year will produce a better title. Or a better back story of how it came to be produced at the Royal Court: its writer Anoushka Warden has her name not just on the cover but also on the staff credits list of the programme playtext, since she is the theatre's head of press and publicity.

Patsy Ferran in My Mum's a Twat
Patsy Ferran in My Mum's a Twat

In an interview in The Observer, journalist Kate Kellaway observes, "You cannot miss her festive metallic tights (the sort you have to be an extrovert to carry off)" and adds, "For all her exuberance, I can see she finds it weird to be interviewed and to have one of her colleagues doing the PR for her play."

It would be even weirder, no doubt, for her own mum - who is the subject of a play that calls itself "an unreliable version of a true story filtered thought a hazy memory and vivid imagination" - to see it. (In the same Observer interview, she says, "I’ve mentioned the play to my mum and told her the title and she didn’t really ask anything, except if ‘twat’ was a real word.")

The story the play tells is of her own abandonment by her mum, when she was just 12 years old, who went off to join a cult - the Heal Thyself Centre for Self-Realisation and Transcendence - and relocate to Canada. She went to live with her father instead, and paid only annual visits to her mum.

It's an eccentric, sad story of parental neglect - but told with a light rather than self-pitying touch that gets under your skin all the more as a result. Her resilience in the face of this abandonment is beautifully caught by that sparky new star of the stage Patsy Ferran, who first made her scene-stealing mark in the West End revival of Blithe Spirit (opposite Angela Lansbury) and has since gone on to impress in productions that have included As You Like It at the National and Speech and Debate at Trafalgar Studios 2.

Inhabiting a child's bedroom of a set, with a mantelpiece full of troll dolls and a wall of cut-outs from magazines, she owns the stage and this story, told with energy but also deep reservoirs of hurt and forgiveness.


My Mum's a Twat is in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court until 20th January.

Photo credit Helen Murray

What the popular press said...

"Eyebrows might be raised at the Royal Court staging a play by its own press officer. However, Anoushka Warden’s 75-minute monologue, beautifully performed by Patsy Ferran, stands on its own two feet as a breathtakingly candid account of a teenager’s wounded fury at her mother’s surrender to a spiritual cult."
Michael Billington, The Guardian (three stars)

"A pleasure to report, then, that this one-woman show, starring Patsy Ferran and co-directed by Vicky Featherstone and Jude Christian, is a real winner.  It's a loosely autobiographical account –  candid, funny and uncompromising – of how one girl loses her mother to a brainwashing religious cult that atrophies her parental capabilities."
Paul Taylor, The Independent (four stars)

"Warden’s monologue is beautifully marinated in Eighties pop-culture references but it also feels undercooked. She might have claimed the right to tell her story on her own terms, but as a piece of drama, you yearn to hear the mother’s side. You feel there is a whole other play beneath the surface waiting to be explored. That, in its way, is a compliment."
Claire Allfree, The Telegraph (three stars)

"Tactfully directed by Vicky Featherstone and Jude Christian, this monologue is effervescent. Warden describes it as a ‘true story filtered through a hazy memory and vivid imagination’, and she appears here as a character known simply as Girl, yet there's nothing fuzzy or spurious about the writing's rage and humour."
Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard (three stars)

"It strikes me as hard not to love, for Ferran’s performance alone. And coming after a difficult, stodgy Royal Court autumn season it is, quite frankly, a bit of a relief – an ultimately joyous testament to teenage resilience."
Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out (four stars)

 

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