Edinburgh Fringe 2010
Three truculent teenagers, a mother who can never remember where she last saw her dentures, a surgically enhanced Yummy Mummy friend, a flirting English teacher and an irresponsible husband. Handling this lot is all in a day’s work for full-time mother Ruth Rich, for whom steering serenely through chaos is a way of life.
Ruth Rich is a full-time mother of three – no, make that four as she has a husband as well. The children, Freddie, Ellie and Laura, at 15, 17 and 21, could be most politely described as a challenge. Throw in her Welsh mother with a proclivity to misplace or eject her ill-fitting dentures at inappropriate moments and a surgically enhanced friend with a genuine superiority complex and you have most of the ingredients for a life of chaos.
Life revolves around managing the social life of her teenage tribe, acting as confident to her various friends, finding her mother’s elusive false teeth and fighting off the attentions (not unwelcome) of Freddie’s English teacher. Not surprisingly this leaves little time for husband and even less available to pursue her fantasies about Colin Firth.
The story revolves around her silicon enlarged friend, who is introduced as Timmy’s Mum. Timmy used to school with Freddie but has graduated to a leading boarding school following the acquisition of an ASBO. He is due to perform in a school concert this Friday and Timmy’s Mum needs Ruth and Freddie to support her as part of the audience.
Around this relatively simple premise, Ginny Davis (writer and performer) weaves a delightful tale that will resonate with anyone who has experienced the “teenage years” of parenthood. And if audiences reflect the subject manner with which they are being presented, then this packed house was true to form with about two thirds watching with relief that all this trauma was long behind them and the rest chuckling at the havoc they had so recently inflicted on their parents.
Delivery is through a narrative style, with the central character, Ruth, introducing the others involved in the story. And there are many of them, allowing Davis to display with some skill a broad range of accents, body language and styles of delivery. She slips effortlessly in and out of the varied personas, often in mid sentence, so the overall effect is not unlike listening to a dramatised version of a book reading.
This works extremely well but what makes this production stand out from the host of others in the storytelling genre is the quality of the script itself. We get plenty of self-deprecation for Ruth herself coupled with irony and the odd bit of satire. Ms Davis clearly has a love of words, of expression and of descriptions of family life. These clearly strike a chord with her listeners judging from the gales of laughter that greet the situations in which Ruth finds herself. Those of us that are not going to see fifty again have all had to deal with teenagers and alcohol, teaching them to drive and the miscellany of conflicts that are all demanding immediate resolution.
The story branches this way and that and at times leaves you wondering how it all fits together, or whether it does at all. But it does, and beautifully. All the little asides she throws out form a web of intrigue that are drawn together as the tale builds to its frenetic and laugh out loud conclusion. You really have to marvel at the ability of Ruth to keep so many balls in the air. It would take some pretty complex algorithms to be able to model the social life she and her brood are engaged in yet Ruth is a picture of serenity despite all the chaos that unfolds that Friday on the night of the concert. And a diplomat too as it turns out, saving the bacon and marriage of at least one of her friends with her quick thinking and economical use of the truth.
This is a cleverly written and engagingly delivered piece of storytelling that will appeal to the parents of teenagers everywhere. It ought to be made compulsive viewing for the adolescent brats as well but you’ll need to get your skates on and book as this show features regularly on the “sold out” board at the Pleasance.