Review: My Mother Said I Never Should,Theatre by the Lake, Keswick

Charlotte Keatley’s ground-breaking drama about four generations of women in a Manchester family charts the social changes faced by women since the war and how relationships through the generations have barely changed.

It’s like a Netflix box-set boiled down to an hour and a half with so many comments, insights and heartbreaking truths spilling from scene to scene and from character to character.

Unwanted pregnancies, crushed ambitions and searing regret are the threads woven through the piece which hops back and forth in time.

There’s no doubt it’s a well-crafted and at times stunningly well-written play, it just seems to lack an edge. Despite that, it is an unflinchingly honest and gripping piece.

The clever set combines an old-fashioned front parlour with a piano and a playground area where a gang of girls meet up to play doctors and nurses, worry about pregnancy and cast spells on their mums.

Maggie O’Brien excels as the matriarch Doris, convincing as a stiff-backed thwarted Edwardian, rationing emotions in and out of wartime and as a cuddly great grandma.

And Asha Kingsley is suitably uptight, stressed out and repressed as her daughter Margaret.

Emily Pithon provides a warmth to Jackie, conflicted between her career and her child and failing miserably in being truthful to her mother, while Georgina Ambrey as the youngest of all fizzes but also packs a powerful emotional punch.

There are many bitter and bittersweet ironies in the play and we don’t seem to have moved on very far from the Eighties when it was written.

Of course, it’s not just a play about daughters. Any parent only ever wants what is best for their child and wants them to do more and be better than themselves.

The times may change, but the attitudes, dreams and hopes don’t differ very much, from era to era, from one mother to the next.

Parental expectation can be too much and can hinder and even imprison just as much as society’s expectations.

My Mother Said I Never Should is on at Theatre by the Lake in Keswick until October 30.

For tickets go to or call 017687 74411.

Mark Green