Be My Baby

first_imgReview by Frankie Parham Evidently February is the month when everyone is up the duff.  While a teen-flick about pregnancy, Juno, is raking in the box office profits, Katie McGettigan has directed an equally triumphant production of Amelia Whittington’s Be My Baby.  Set in 1964, we follow the progress of nineteen year-old Mary Adams (Alexandra Hedges), now in her seventh month of pregnancy, unmarried and forced by her prim mother (Frances Rose) to live in a private hospice. Despite the unsympathetic Matron (Camille Watts), the dreary institution has its comforts: Mary befriends three other inmates, similarly all heaving their literal and emotional burdens. Dolores (Crissy Taylor) is the lovingly dappy northerner, contrasting with the sombre Norma (Helen Harvey) and brutally honest Queenie (Jenni Payne). Together, they discover the realities of their positions; they are helpless in a world where money, husband and home are to be their concerns. Love doesn’t come into it.  In the bland setting of Exeter’s Saskatchewen room (however exotic that name might sound) you really get the sense of some drab ’60s institution for badly behaved girls. Hedges, ceaselessly quivering with nervous naivety, brings an infective enthusiasm to her character, creating a foundation for the play to stand on. Similarly impressive are her three fellow “sinners”: Harvey is a brilliantly restrained Norma, allowing her angst to gradually increase to the point of madness, while Taylor is consistently genuine for all her childish idiocy. Payne probably has the hardest job as the predictable cynic with a soft centre, but she brings credibility to the role. Ultimately, she draws the most pathos from an audience that has already had its sympathies sucked up by all the others: from the beginning, the shocking reasons why each character is there are slowly revealed. Even Watts’ Matron, who runs the place with the cold sobriety of a Nurse Ratchet, eventually exposes her pitiable suffering with particular subtlety.  For a man’s world, the play is refreshingly deficient of any male roles. A guy would have a lot to live up to with this cast, since Katie and her gang have truly shown what Oxford drama is all about. Seizing occupation of an abandoned classroom, borrowing some theatre lights and probably using their own clothes, the girls – unlike their ’60s counterparts – have done it their way. How things have changed…   4/5 7:30pm Wed/ThursTurl Street Arts Festival: Saskatchewen Room, Exeter Collegelast_img

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