Created by Emelia Symington Fedy, Jody-Kay Marklew, Juno Rinaldi, and Sonja Bennett. Directed by Courtenay Dobbie. A Motherload Collective production, presented by the Cultch. At the Cultch’s Historic Theatre on Wednesday, February 4. Continues until February 21
Motherload is an intimate gift and some of it is lovely—but it’s far from perfect.
In Motherload, the four actors who wrote and perform the show—Sonja Bennett, Jody-Kay Marklew, Juno Rinaldi, and Emelia Symington Fedy—share their experience of being moms.
The evening starts off weakly with a barely amusing scene in which the four women talk about how weird it is that somebody has named their baby Amy. And although some of the ensuing material delivers nibbles of satisfaction—assuming the voice of a self-help guru, Symington Fedy advises that, to be a successful working mom, you need a partner to pay the bills and you don’t have to love them—the show is so full of disparate elements that it takes forever to find its groove.
Rinaldi to the rescue. Her material is the most successful, partly because it has the most sustained arc. Rinaldi takes us through the endless hours of one day, which starts with her dachshund puking and shitting all over the rug at 6 a.m. and goes downhill from there. Rinaldi has exquisite comic timing and the slightly mournful presence of a clown, both of which she uses to great effect in her description of her son’s picky eating habits. Some of her scenes are outrageously funny, including the one in which her older son rats out his little brother: “Jake pooed in the bathtub and now he’s eating the whole log!” But there’s depth and tension here, too, as Rinaldi struggles with financial pressures and panic attacks.
Bennett’s contributions are also focused: she describes the four kinds of parents you see in playgrounds, including the Parent Who Doesn’t Parent, and, most forcefully, she narrates the journey in which she discovered that her own anger and propensity for violence were rubbing off on her little boy. Bennett’s writing is tight and witty, and she has the good grace to credit her partner with the best line: “My husband told me that watching me give birth was like watching his favourite bar burn down.”
Director Courtenay Dobbie uses blackouts at the end of every scene, which emphasizes the piecemeal nature of the text. Still, Motherload gains momentum as it proceeds. Symington Fedy mourns the death of her own mother, which occurred shortly after the birth of the actor’s first child. Marklew fearlessly and graphically enacts an attempt to have sex. And Candelario Andrade’s projection design mostly provides effective visual support—notably in the rhythmically flashing streetlights that underscore the growing anxieties expressed by a climactic trio of voices.
And then there are the photos and videos of the kids. Oh my God. I could have watched that stuff all night: Bennett’s little boy dancing, Symington Fedy’s baby sucking back noodles, Marklew’s daughter making binoculars for her robot alter ego, and Rinaldi in conversation with her toddler. Jake says, “You keep me safe. You keep me right safe,” and Rinaldi answers, “I sure do, pal. Always.”