The Mother Load – The Royal Lyceum

Written by Lynda Radley

Directed by Isobel McArthur

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It’s often remarked that there is nothing like childbirth, not the physical stresses and pain, nor the cacophony of fears, joy, terror, and love in the creation of a relationship between mother and their new “bean”. Continuing to produce the highest-quality audio dramas, even as live theatre steadily returns, The Lyceum, in association with Pitlochry and Naked Productions, presents Lynda Radley’s The Mother Load – a dramatic comedy chartering the discussions, bond and labour of three different mothers.

The Mother Load centres on the pregnancy, aftercare, and difficult flourishing of three mothers who meet at an antenatal class – arching (loosely) over a trio of stories, each tale is from the respective of another new mother. And bare the gritted teeth, the opening of Radley’s audio drama comes over as stereotypical and less than methodical, but the writing takes every necessary turn and widening required to create a warmly inviting, if occasionally by the numbers production.

Now, the transcendent bubbling cauldron of intense and conflicting emotions that any new mother feels is a sensation not gifted to myself, nor one which I or any man will ever utterly understand, but if there’s an undeniable aspect found within Radley’s script – it is the power in conveying the bombastic barrage of emotional turmoil, laughter, pain, and joy motherhood come with. Laden with the truth, the initial paranoia and anxieties of expectations and the ‘correct’ level of love, Mobina finding herself questioning how happy she is to see her child. Honest, frank, and unafraid to query things, Radley crafts her cast as authentic.

Equal, there’s refreshing decency with the trio of narratives, tying them within one another and never actually drawing lines between them. Radley’s pacing flows, and director Isobel McArthur grasping the ears of the audience with relative ease.  It enables for intimacy with each character, enabling performers to gain the most from their limited time and honing the focus more on the introspective moments and development, rather than the laughs and individual nature.

Reinforcing the internal struggles, Nalini Chetty channels the considerably distinguished direction of McArthur, bolstered by the production’s spectacular manipulation of sound design. Together with MJ McCarthy’s score, Jon Nicholl’s sharp twist of pitch reinforces Mobina’s fragility with noises, with cries or alarms igniting memories of her painful labour. A testament to Chetty and McArthur’s abilities as performer and director, the production also benefits tremendously from Wendy Seager and Anna Russel-Martin.

Cat and Rowan – chalk and cheese, it is here the script is taken down a fluid sense of comedy and inverts any stereotypes. Seager and Russel-Martin take considerable delight in their roles as the more tempered architect Cat, and the high strung and remarkably familiar and sympathetic wellness enthusiast Rowan. But within these differing dynamics, Radley’s knack for stimulating the connection new mothers share conjures selflessness many shall never experience.

Woefully cast aside and underrepresented outside of horror, hysteria and comedy, motherhood receives an outing of a personal nature, nurtured, and raised into a sublime audio drama. Remarkably well crafted in parts, The Mother Load pushes forward a narrative seen, but often underappreciated and promoted. Even rarer, it succeeds as an audio drama in a meticulously crafted way for its medium, without the thought of a staged medium hanging over the motivations.

Review published for The Reviews Hub

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