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monkey plays the baby of the pack

6th July 2009 by Martin Gibbons

Amanda Whittington’s Be My Baby, is the latest production from the Northface Theatre Company and it’s an unassuming play with a core message which is surprisingly affecting. An involving script, some good performances, and evocative use of music make this a production which you might want to check out. But it has its flaws.

Set in the early 1960s, the play follows the experiences of Mary, a 19 year-old girl who becomes pregnant and is entered into a home for unwed mothers by her own mother. There we are introduced to the strict matron and to three other young mothers. The play then follows the tales of their experiences of becoming pregnant, of giving birth, and ultimately being forced to give up the children for immediate adoption.

Sarah McDonald Hughes does a competent job as Mary, but the role itself – that of a seemingly ‘good’ girl who has made a mistake – seems lacking. In contrast Rachel Austin, as Queenie, a more traditional ‘bad girl’, has much more to get her teeth into and shines as a result. The other members of the cast support these two main leads well, with Lisa-Marie Hoctor and Kelly Munro-Fawcett providing entertaining performances as the other two girls, Norma and Delores.

The stage at the RNCM is not the best space for this performance – the sound of a band practising above distracts during some key moments – but the director, Jason Hudson, makes good use of the space, enabling us to believe that there are a number of different locations without any need for scene shifting. The use of period music to illustrate both mood and story worked very well, however, adding greatly to the production.

Based on the real stories of the way young, unmarried mothers were treated both in society and by their families at this period, this play is an effective reminder of how far we’ve come. Although at times a little eager to convey it’s message, it sometimes borders on preachy. But this remains a play which cannot fail to touch the heart.

The performances, although lacking in places, serve the piece well, and, if you get the chance, you could do worse than going to see Be My Baby. Just don’t expect to be blown away.

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