Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s new play examines the emotional complexities of becoming a mother and asks – what real support is there for new mums?

©The Other Richard

With a simple circular rug in the centre of the stage and large scale cot mobile overhanging the story unfolding, it is clear that much of the focus is on the rawness of emotions of all the characters as this compellingly sensitive new play unfolds. This is rightly so as the play questions at what point can you reach out and ask for help when you are struggling?

Nina is an exhausted new mum and is struggling to adjust due to lack of sleep, leading onto concerns as to whether she is able to look after her son – particularly when something that is every parents worst nightmare occurs. This is very much a play that examines the support that is made available to new mums as well as the part that mental health plays, leading to self-doubt and unable to communicate how much they need help. But just as much it looks at how the idea of being a mother and what it really means depending on your own family history.

Written by Morgan Lloyd Malcom, MUM is an emotionally complex story that not only tugs at the heartstrings but also gets women really thinking about the joys and terrors of parenthood that many are unaware of before becoming a mother. There are so many stand out speeches in this play written with great sensitivity, but the moment in which Jackie says that every new mum feels the same way but Nina proclaims ‘They don’t. I’ve met other mums with the same age babies. They have their shit together.’ This one moment alone reveals so much depth and insight on the pressure to be the ‘perfect’ mother and just be able to cope.

Directed by Abigail Graham, the production is so strongly focused that you really get a sense of just how trapped within her own emotions Nina really is. I also loved the way in which the cast switch into different characters with a sense of chilling urgency particularly towards the end of the play (no spoilers here), adding to the rawness of emotion that is on display, enhanced further by Sally Ferguson’s lighting design that is so natural in terms of instinct of where the audience’s attention should be focused on.

But this is a production that is very much about the performances. Sophie Melville is impressively good as Nina, really managing to capture just how vulnerable, lost and alone in her struggles that is really painful to watch – particularly clear during the moments in which she rails at Pearl. It is a mesmerising performance that is filled with detail that makes it clear just how deep she has delved into this character. But she has also got strong support from Cat Simmons as Jackie who desperately tries to help her but is unsure of how to- it is a well grounded performance. Denise Black as Pearl delivers a strong performance that covers a different aspect of motherhood – the lengths mothers go to to protect their children which makes for a striking contrast between Nina’s situation but as equally important to highlight the fears that all mothers share even if its in a different way.

At just an hour long, this is a show that makes it clear that more support is needed for new mothers and the pressure placed on them to do everything perfectly. Highly recommended.

By Emma Clarendon

MUM continues to play at the Soho Theatre until the 20th October.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐