Fringe Online 2021
We begin in the ante-natal class with the three expectant mums. Thrown together because they are pregnant, they have very different backgrounds and experiences to date. They are a stereotypical bunch with the middle-class angst of an architect Cat, (Wendy Seager), the wellness and earthiness of Rowan (Anna Russell-Martin) and the very highly strung Mobina, (Nalina Chetty) who is now an expert in attending ante-natal classes. Split into three sections, The Mother Load takes us through each of their birth experiences and what happens next as the humanity of each new mum, narrating their own stories brings the other characters in as support and critics whilst they each struggle to cope with their new lives. We first have to have a baby delivered by the two newfound friends in a lift, followed by the baby shower with new and strange pre-birthing experiences before the very serious issues of illness in a newborn.
I am unsure if there is much left to say about the terror of giving birth. It should allow any drama based around it the opportunity to be about each experience rather than be hide bound by the need to blaze trails. The issue that I had with The Mother Load was also its strength. I recognized the stereotypes, but they tended to begin as stereotypes.
The strength lay in the adept hand brought by director, Isabel McArthur and her cast who realized that there was nothing explosive to say but plenty of new material to delve deeper into. There are laughs, plenty of them, from the ridiculous nature of covering your house with painted vagina prints, to the idea of an ante-natal class being like Hunger Games with hemorrhoids but it also managed to get into the low points with some skill. By the end there sure is a lot to be said about women being flung together to cope with the terrors and the squeezing of something the size of a melon through something the size of a lemon.
As director, McArthur is beginning to develop from the young actor with plenty of promise at the Royal Conservatoire and Lynda Radley’s play has given her the opportunity to progress from that promising beginning.
Part of that skill also comes from being able to bring the audio together in an audio drama. MJ McCarthy as composer alongside the sound design of Jon Nichols manages to capture all of the background that brought back memories of being a birthing partner/dad and the panic of the smells and noises of neo-natal clinics and ICU. It made for a great listen and whilst it may have begun with stereotypical characteristics, it ended with a positive message that took the drama and refused to make too much of a crisis out of it.