Sign language highlights communication theme in My Mother Said I Never Should

The company of My Mother Said I Never Should. Photo by Mark Douet.
The company of My Mother Said I Never Should. Photo by Mark Douet.

A production of Charlotte Keatley’s widely-performed play My Mother Said I Never Should has opened in Sheffield.

It features a talented cast of deaf and hearing actors, and incorporates British Sign Language and visual captioning.

Moving backwards and forwards in time, beginning in 1940 and ending in 1987 when it was first performed, the play examines the experience of four generations of women in one family.

At various points the four actors become children playing traditional games. They do this with great gusto and conviction. Throughout the play we’re aware of the child within each of the characters, whatever their age.

Doris (Ali Briggs) captures the tragic naivety of a generation of women who gave up their independence when they married, and kept the marriage going for the sake of appearances.

Margaret (Jude Mahon) is her daughter, burdened by her mother’s expectations, and hungry for change. But she too has a difficult relationship with her daughter, Jackie (E.J. Raymond), an aspiring artist who becomes pregnant while still a student. The play revolves around a family conspiracy: Jackie’s daughter, Rosie (Lisa Kelly, excellent in her debut role), has been brought up to believe that Margaret is her mother and Jackie her sister. What will

happen when she eventually learns the truth?

All the women are recognisably human in their idiosyncrasies and flaws. Questions of identity and choice, truth and lies are woven into the dialogue. There are moments of humour as well as anguish. The actors bring a huge physical energy to their roles – the theme of how we communicate given an extra dimension by the role of gesture and expression in the production’s use of sign language.

Genevieve Barr as the Voice of Jackie adds to the sense of authenticity. Jeni Draper, the artistic director of fingersmiths, heads the team responsible for this innovative show.

My Mother Said I Never Should is running at Sheffield Crucible studio until November 23.