My Mother Said I Never Should

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My Mother Said I Never Should is a play in three acts by Charlotte Keatley. directed by Michael Attenborough and Brigid Larmour

My Mother Said I Never Should was written in 1985 and was first produced at the Contact Theatre in Manchester on 25 February 1987. A revised edition premiered at the Royal Court Theatre on 23 February 1989 and in a recent revival premiered on 29 September 2009 at the Watford Palace Theatre. The play made a welcome return to the North West when The Dukes [1] in Lancaster produced My Mother Said I Never Should in February 2010.

This play is about the difficult relationships between mothers and daughters and explores the themes of independence, growing up and secrets. A story which explores the lives and relationships of four generations of women: Doris, Margaret, Jackie and Rosie. Their loves, expectations, and choices are set against the huge social changes of the twentieth century. When Jackie falls pregnant with Rosie, without a husband, she is unable to cope and hands over the baby to her mother, Margaret. The play looks at the consequences of this secret and each woman's opinion on it. The play has a minimalistic set and is deliberately unrealistic. One of the most unrealistic things in the play is the wasteground scenes where all characters become children. In these scenes, Doris becomes the youngest child at 5, with Rosie at 8 and Jackie and Margaret both 9. Some viewers have said that "it works backwards on itself which can get rather confusing."[Who?] The scenes do not follow in chronological order, so in one scene Margaret will be a young child during the war being comforted by her mother Doris and in the next Jackie will be a child visiting her grandma Doris. This can also be slightly confusing because it is not specifically mentioned how old the characters are in each scene, but mostly it is very self-explanatory.

The main themes of the play are relationships and motherhood. It addresses the issues of teenage pregnancy, career prioritisation and single motherhood. It is also about how the different generations break free from their parents' traditions and culture.

Margaret is caught in the middle in between her mother and her daughter, Jackie, who had a daughter (Rosie) despite being unmarried.


The play begins in the Wasteground, where the four girls play as contemporaries - Doris appears aged five, Margaret six, and Jackie and Rosie at eight. They show disgust for the idea of little girls being made of 'sugar and spice and all things nice' and then put forth the idea of 'killing their Mummy'. Jettisoning the younger Doris, they are wary of ingredients for their 'curse' being too real (such as harelip) or too fantastical; and then call upon the spirit of their Granny, fleeing as a figure moves upstage towards them.
The figure is Doris, now an adult and singing to a racy George Formby song on the radio. Her daughter, Margaret, aged eight; surprises her by shouting 'knickers' from beneath the piano. Doris insists on being called 'Mother' rather than 'Mummy', and pushes Margaret to practise the piano rather than answering her inquisitive, lively child's questions about the war and whether her parents say their prayers. The next scene shows Doris as a grandmother with Jackie, Margaret's daughter; now affectionate and lenient, by contrast to her relationship with Margaret.


Roles Premiere Cast, 25 February 1987
Manchester, Contact Theatre
Revised Version, 23 February 1989
London, Royal Court Theatre
Modern Revival, 29 September 2009
Watford, Watford Palace Theatre
Doris Partington Joan Campion Elizabeth Bradley Eve Pearce
Margaret Bradley Jenny Howe Sheila Reid Abigail Thaw
Jackie Metcalfe Jane Paton Jane Gurnett Claire Brown
Rosie Metcalfe Michele Wade Shirley Henderson Katherine Manners
Directed by Brigid Larmour Michael Attenborough Brigid Larmour