The Good Enough Mums Club is a new musical that follows a local playgroup that is a refuge and community for the five mothers who attend, who use the space as a place to vent about the challenges of motherhood.
The musical was originated by Emily Beecher, the book writer and lyricist, after her diagnosis of postnatal depression. Through her recovery process, she began writing about her experiences and found that many other mothers were also struggling. Throughout the process of creating this musical, it’s evident that Beecher had a strong emphasis on having mothers at the heart of the show. The musical has been devised through 10 years of collecting real-life stories and experiences of motherhood and has been produced, written, directed, designed, choreographed, stage-managed, and performed by mothers.
This intentional inclusion of mums brings such an evident and impactful realism and truth to the performance. Beecher’s inclusive philosophy when devising the show is empowering, and makes it refreshing to see mothers speaking so candidly about experiences of motherhood on stage, as they are so often neglected, and makes it all the more impactful to see motherhood being celebrated.
In the musical, each mother grapples with challenging, realistic circumstances often sidelined in media. Unfortunately, the opportunity to have a meaningful exploration of the themes is not taken. With issues as important as infant death, racism, a single mother struggling to live on Universal Credit, uncaring partners, and postnatal psychosis, it was disappointing that they were not discussed as fully as they could have been.
Issues were resolved too quickly or only went to a superficial level, making it lack nuance or a tangible resolution. Furthermore, the presentation of these issues was often with clunky and obvious dialogue, which felt like they were shoe-horning in. Additionally, the enduring conflict centres on the council trying to shut down the community centre, but the resolution feels rushed and misses a powerful moment to truly reflect upon the closure.
It would be easy for a production dealing with such heavy subjects to be depressing. However, the show handles the challenging subjects with authentic and crude humour, often joking about frustrating aspects of motherhood, building the realism and charm of the production. All the cast deliver good comedic performances, especially in a recurring bit where they pretend to be children. This could very easily be cringe-worthy, yet they pull off the comedy with ease.
Humour is also delivered through the music. The opening song is a particularly funny moment, as they do a parody of ‘Cell Block Tango’ from Chicago. However, overall, the music underdelivers. There are one too many ballads, which feels repetitive, especially as the music is not distinct enough to distinguish between them easily. Furthermore, the musical numbers aren’t always integrated into the script, making them feel a bit out of place. The lyrics are sometimes quite basic, meaning the songs struggle to deliver an emotional impact.
The cast worked well together and successfully created a realistic portrayal of a group of women. Jade Samuels was fantastic as Chantel and brought so much passion and energy to the musical. A further highlight was Joanna Kirkland, who brought a strong performance as the intense Bea and had a captivating dynamic with Samuels. Additionally, Amy Ross added so much heart and warmth to the show as Sophie.
The set, designed by Libby Todd, was a simple space, which gave a universal quality to it. The costumes, also designed by Todd, were naturalistic and successfully presented their distinctive characters. Aaron J Dootson’s lighting design helped to elevate moments of tension, particularly when highlighting one character’s struggle with post-natal psychosis.
Overall, the show was impactful by showing the struggles of motherhood in an authentic voice, although a little underdeveloped. Despite not being the target audience, I found it engaging and think it is important to show how incredible and taken-for-granted mothers are.
The Good Enough Mums Club finishes its UK tour at the Lowry on December 2, 2023. Get your tickets here.