It feels like a big deal when a playwright can write dialogue that feels like real life. When the writing is based on relationships between mother and daughter, it is ten times as impressive. It is a relationship so intense and important in the female experience that it can shape where we live, who to marry and our haircuts for a lifetime - long after the matriarch has passed away.

In this production, the most intense period of the relationship is captured in heartbreaking and hilarious detail. Picture this: Lorna and her 16-year-old daughter Mila embark on what was meant to be a simple mother-daughter holiday to Scarborough, only they bring along some fairly heavy baggage - literal and metaphorical. While they unpack their bags, it emerges that Lorna (played brilliantly by Eleanor Henderson), has her regrets at having gotten pregnant at 16 and all the things she missed out on. Mila, (Olivia Pentelow’s grouchy teenager slowly uncurls into a complex and layered young woman)- has a strong feeling of impending doom and wants to keep her mother at a distance. But we learn her results are due to be released while they are away, a boyfriend sending mixed signals and her grandmother’s ashes in a sandwich bag. “I was going to put her in a pencil case but I didn’t want her to get stuck in the zip” she says in one of many deadpan but laugh-out-loud moments. 

While Lorna wants to relive her youth now that her daughter is independent, her friends are settling down and are busy with babies and playdates. When she was a teenage mother, newly single too, all her friends were at college. This tension between love and resentment, deep care and flippant thoughtlessness feels so real and raw, it made me question, was writer Kate Redford working from her own diaries from her teenage years? No, is the answer - she got even closer - doing workshops with teenagers and asking them about their interests and worries. The conversations were broad - their anxieties about climate change, friendships, body image - yet the focus kept coming back to their relationships with their mothers. Other issues weave into both characters and it ends up as a very complex picture of motherhood, and how it evolves as girls grow into women. It was wonderful to hear actresses from Sheffield perform also - so often a southern actress will still play a northern character, even in professional theatres in central London. Here, the difference between a Bolton accent and a Sheffield one is the focus of a joke, and it feels genuine, and also said with love and affection by actors who can enunciate the subtle differentiation. 

This show is due to tour schools but there is a lot of educational value for adults too. It is heartbreaking in places and there is an argument that is so viscerally emotional that it feels like being on the sidelines at another family’s very difficult holiday, but that too has its merits. All young women and their mothers should see this and for the rest of us, a bit of wit and tender emotion is pretty good for the soul. 


More info and tickets: here.


Review: Caiti Grove        Photo: Chris Saunders