She Called Me Mother, a Pitch Lake Production for Black Theatre Live written by Michelle Innis, was being shown at the Unity Theatre last weekend. The play stars Chereen Buckley, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominated Cathy Tyson, and directed by Cara Nolan.
The Unity Theatre is an independent theatre that was awarded the Best Performing Venue at the Mersey Partnership Tourism Awards. The small-scale and quirky nature of the theatre makes it a perfect venue for contemporary theatre.
She Called Me Mother was a moving play highlighting issues of homelessness and domestic abuse. The play focused on the life of an elderly homeless woman, Evangeline (Cathy Tyson), who was nostalgic to return to Trinidad.
The story was told through a series of monologues between a mother and daughter as they indirectly address and confront the tensions in their relationship. Evangeline sits in the London Bridge train station every day, selling the Big Issue; she recounts how everyday she looks for one woman amongst the crowds, who reminds her of the daughter she lost contact with many years ago. This leads her to retell the disintegration of her marriage and family, and of how her husband’s alcohol abuse soon led to domestic abuse and violence towards Evangeline and her daughter Shirley (Chereen Buckley).
Evangeline’s refusal to acknowledge the severity of her husband’s abuse towards their daughter, results in Shirley leaving home on her 16th birthday, with Evangeline not seeing sight of her since. Amongst Evangeline’s revealing monologues, Shirley shares the story from her perspective and relays her anger towards her mother, but also her longing to see her again. The play concludes with Shirley and her mother meeting at the station, and confronting their longstanding issues with one another.
The play was well written and directed, and executed in a way that allowed the audience to recognise the characters’ harrowing experiences without explicitly stating them. The set was simple and stripped back, allowing the attention of the audience to be solely focused on the monologues of the two characters. Both Tyson and Buckley delivered emotive and thought provoking performances that raised awareness and visibility of issues of homelessness and abuse. A particularly interesting aspect of the performance was the way in which it highlighted how easily and unexpectedly a persons’ circumstances can change, leading to a life of instability and vulnerability. The play had the audience captivated from start to finish, and was a piece of theatre definitely worth watching, in a venue that accentuates and encourages smaller theatre groups in gaining exposure.