My Mum's a Twat review

Theatre, Drama
4 out of 5 stars
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1/9
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2/9
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3/9
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4/9
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5/9
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6/9
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7/9
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8/9
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9/9
© Helen Murray

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Patsy Ferran blasts through this autobiographical monologue about writer Anoushka Warden losing her mother to a cult

Anoushka Warden’s marvellously-named debut play ‘My Mum’s a Twat’ is billed as ‘an unreliable version of a true story’ about the author’s spectacularly complicated childhood. It’s primarily – if not solely – about her relationship with her mother, ‘a good mum’ who became increasingly less so as she fell into the clutches of a manipulative new-age cult when Warden was ten.

There is a bleak way of telling this tale, but that’s not how Warden has approached her monologue; nor co-directors Vicky Featherstone and Jude Christian; and least of all ebullient star Patsy Ferran (the character is called ‘Girl’ in the script, but is effectively the author).

Warden tackles every grim incident from her childhood – from accumulating facial scars to the appalling cruelty of the cult – with sweary, facetious, charming humour. And the story itself is much loopier than something a writer might have dared to invent, with later portions set in a small Canadian town, where Girl/Warden has a high time discovering drugs and gangsta rap.

In one of the more poignant moments, the character says the pain of those years left her emotionally underdeveloped (‘getting my heart severely damaged at that stage was a bit much for it’). But the slightly juvenile emotional tone is all to the good of the piece as entertainment. Warden’s voice bursts with youthful elan – it vaguely reminds me of David Mitchell’s ‘Black Swan Green’. The marvellous, turbo-charged Ferran – who is somehow doing this twice a night – manages to simultaneously convey the in-the-minute rush of teenhood, and the sense of an older woman looking back on these outlandish events with something like amusement.

It’s all underscored by a witty teenage bedroom set from Chloe Lamford – a good chunk of the audience is sat on beanbags – and lively hip hop sound design from Duramaney Kamara (at one point Ferran raps, which is quite the treat).

Ultimately it’s an authentic and affecting story about one woman’s love for her mother, in spite of almost unbearable complications. But where ‘authentic’ can often mean a certain predictable grittiness, ‘My Mum’s a Twat’ is kind of the opposite: it is pathologically irreverent and I grinned my way through most of it.

Warden’s day job is head of press at the Royal Court, and I suppose I should mention that she’s also a personal friend. You’ll have to take my word for it that I’d cheerily tell her if I thought her play was shit. But inevitably my experience was coloured by some prior knowledge of these events and the awareness that she talks exactly like this in real life. Still, it strikes me as hard not to love, for Ferran’s performance alone. And coming after a difficult, stodgy Royal Court autumn season it is, quite frankly, a bit of a relief – an ultimately joyous testament to teenage resilience.

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