By Nicolle Nattrass. Directed by TJ Dawe. A Firehall Arts Centre presentation. At the Firehall Arts Centre on Wednesday, October 19. Continues until October 29
There’s a lot to like in this very personal story of pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood, but structurally, it doesn’t totally deliver.
Playwright and performer Nicolle Nattrass plays Marie, a mom who’s having a rare “night out” in the form of this performance. “I don’t think my toddler needs socialization classes; I do,” she confesses at the top of the show. Marie gets pregnant on the eve of her 40th birthday, and her status as a self-consciously “older parent” comes with its own set of complications. Her mother and father greet the announcement of her pregnancy with silent shock, and she has to break the news gently to a dear friend who’s been trying unsuccessfully to conceive.
Mamahood is billed as a play about postpartum depression, but Marie spends the first two-thirds of the show narrating an exhaustive chronology of her pregnancy and the birth of her son. There are plenty of great details in this story, both comic—in labour, Marie rips the belt loops off her doula’s jeans—and scary, as the expectant parents wait for potentially life-changing test results. Folks who’ve had kids in the last decade or so will relate to, and laugh about, much of this. Then the baby is born, and we suddenly jump forward—months or years—to an excessively anxious Marie. But the situation is described so briefly and help arrives so soon that there’s little dramatic tension.
Nattrass is a big-hearted and fearlessly vulnerable performer whose charm is a great strength of this show. She and director TJ Dawe play with the metaphor of motherhood as an interplanetary journey. Though it sometimes feels forced, the conceit’s biggest payoff is the deadpan flight announcements, which frequently include the phrase “Don’t worry.”
Set designer Pia Guerra’s mostly bare stage is backed by a colourful triptych of idealized mother figures: the Madonna and child, the stylish '50s housewife, and the eight-armed career mom of today, trying to do it all. Mothers who’ve believed themselves to be alone in falling short of those ideals are this show’s natural audience. Nattrass has given them a gift.