Theatre Review: My Mum’s a Twat, Royal Court ‘Brings Joy When You Expect Trauma’

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This true story of a daughter who loses her mum to a cult is, in its essence, terribly traumatic. For a young girl of only ten to find herself increasingly pushed aside and, eventually, abandoned as the one who is responsible for her care is drawn deeper and deeper into an insidious sect should make for a disturbing play. And, at times, My Mum’s a Twat is that. But far more than this, this play brims with warmth and humour by focusing more on resilience and acceptance, than abandonment and loss.

Patsy Ferran plays the unnamed Girl in this eighty-minute monologue and she is fantastic. Her enthusiasm for her story is infectious. Her recounting of her experiences covers about eight years – those crucial teenage years – and Patsy brings a great edge of teenage rebellion and attitude as well as a wide-eyed adventurous spirit.

We follow this Girl through the fun of her teenage years – the first flirtations, the cool girls, and the playing truant – as well as the tough of her specific situation – being dragged up in front of the leader of the sect, the removal of birthday and Christmas traditions, and the emotional exclusion.

This is the story of a young girl enduring what must have felt unendurable. For, as the Girl explains, her mother (already struggling with a broken marriage and a clearly unsuitable new partner) went looking for solace and counselling at The Heal Thyself Centre for Self-Realisation and Transcendence in North Barrow (“[It] still exists and still brainwashes people,” she adds. Reminding us that this is very real indeed.) But this play brings as much joy as it does trauma. There is dry sarcasm as well as that eye-roll feel about her mum’s behaviour. Feelings we can all relate to – only, obviously, it all gets worse.

Loss is there, obviously, but this is also a journey through a young adolescent’s eyes – the odd rituals, the bizarre claims, the patently-false gurus… There is a sense of adventure here – certainly a walk into a world few of us would know anything about. But the great success in this writing, which is a debut play from Anoushka Warden, is that the urge to explain everything is resisted. For this is a girl’s story – and young girls, well, we don’t fully understand all of what we are seeing; we can only bear witness to it.

Some excellent design from Chloe Lamford and some nice directorial touches from Vicky Featherstone recreate the girl’s world, witnessing her maturity as we pass from collectible trolls to gangsta rap. That blend of the normal girl in the most abnormal of situations… It’s wonderful. Sad – desperately sad – but that Girl makes it through to the other side is ultimately galvanising and uplifting.

Royal Court Theatre, London, to January 20, 2018.
All production images by Helen Murray.

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