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Theatre Review Room for development

MARY CONWAY sees a play on a young girl abandoned by her mother that could do with some dramatic depth

My Mum’s a Twat
Royal Court Theatre, London

AT EIGHTY minutes, My Mum’s a Twat is overlong, but not because time spent in the company of that winning and animated actor Patsy Ferran isn’t a delight.

The problem is that its one main thought, "My mum’s a twat for joining a daft, highly controlling spiritual cult and abandoning me," is easily demonstrated in the first few minutes and doesn’t develop.

As a monologue it feels more suited to a brief stand-up comedy routine than to a drama.

Yet Ferran is riveting as the shocked teenager, whose wit and humour barely masks the blind fury at her callous abandonment. And the piece does capture the heartfelt cries of teenagers everywhere who have similarly lost parents to addictions, mad obsessions or simply new and life-shattering attachments. Parents, as we all know, can hurt and disappoint.

This girl’s account of losing her mother, first to the loathed stepfather she dubs "moron," then to "batshit, crazy" beliefs and finally to an all-embracing community in another land on another continent, is a simple and honest outpouring of personal grief.

The girl’s story, delivered with unlikely articulacy and assurance in an unexpectedly middle-class accent, embraces interests as wide-ranging as collectable trolls, Casio keyboards, "fit" boys and gangsta rap, but it never really surprises beyond the original premise.

Meanwhile, the play’s second theme,the culpability of cult leaders who possess their followers in mind and body while absorbing all their money and which could potentially form the subject of a bigger and more rounded play, isn't fully explored

The arrival of this piece on the Royal Court stage is in itself of interest, as writer Anoushka Warden is the theatre’s press officer-turned-playwright.

She successfully offered the theatre her life story in the service of art and what the thousands of budding geniuses and hard grafters who submit unsolicited scripts to the theatre year after year without success make of her advancement would in itself make a drama.

But the tale has its charm and Warden brings us a lively and often amusing narrative. There is a freshness in the girl’s touching teenage candour and in Ferran’s light-footed, youthful physicality.

Most importantly, directors Jude Christian and artistic director Vicky Featherstone clearly recognise the urgent themes of the piece and justifiably bring them to our door.

Runs until January 20, box office: royalcourttheatre.com

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