Brighton Fringe 2016
Mummy or the Art of Saying Goodbye is a fresh, new one-woman show about grief, death and the art of letting go, written and performed by Amy Gwilliam.
As a publicity stunt for the local papers, Dr. Elizabeth Niccoll returns to her secondary school to launch her first book – Mummy: The Art of Saying Goodbye. Having spent years researching Ancient Egypt and its death rituals, Dr. Niccoll is a celebrated expert. She has got death nailed. She thinks. But back at school and challenged with an audience of 16 year olds, memories stir and ghosts return.
Mummy or the Art of Saying Goodbye is a brilliantly conceived, directed and performed piece of tragi-comic, food-for-thought theatre.
From the first moment, Amy Gwilliam had the audience hooked. She lured us into a world where we were the 16 year olds, sitting in a school hall listening to the presentation from Dr. Niccol, as well as being an individual, sitting in an audience, watching a play. And she kept us there throughout her performance, in a space between dealing with our personal reactions to the issues she threw up, and our role as sixteen year olds watching a rather sad grown-up’s presentation.
Amy Gwilliam is most definitely a talent to watch out for. Her writing is tight, witty, pithy and clever. Her performance was well paced, confident, fluid, enticing and very, very convincing. When I interviewed her after the performance it was quite a surprise to find out that Amy was not a bit like Dr. Niccol. Memorably, Amy was able to improvise seamlessly and in character, with what was going on in the audience in front of her – a camera crew, a mobile phone ring – all of which added to the feeling that, yes, we were there in the school hall with Dr. Niccol. Amy’s presence totally filled the small theatre, and I had a sense she’d be able to fill a much larger space as well.
The play was well structured: there was a sense of shape and flow to it, which set the perfect backdrop for a number of surprises and revelations along the way. And the play made good use of the theatre space, music and props, which included a very willing (totally entranced) audience.
Mummy or the Art of Dying effortlessly straddles the border between theatre and education. As well as being highly entertaining, it throws up so many facts around death rituals that I walked out curious to dig deeper. Mummy also achieves its aim of opening up the conversation around death and dying, and the way we deal with it in our culture. Teetering on the edge between hilarity and devastation, it challenges us to rethink the space we give ourselves to love and grieve.
I have the sense that Amy Gwilliam is capable of much, much more as a writer and performer. This is just the tip of the iceberg. So, if you get the chance to see Mummy or the Art of Saying Goodbye, or to invite Amy to perform for you, jump at it! This woman has talent.
You can listen to the interview I did with Amy Gwilliam straight after her performance here: