Friday, May 17, 2019

Mothers Out Front – a world leader gets wrapped up in a climate emergency #MothersKnowBest (Sole Purpose’s NI tour)

Three Mums plan an environmental protest at a rally in Dublin. But when the newest recruit rashly improvises, they end up kidnapping an orange-tanned toupée-wearing world leader wrapped up in a blanket and holding him in a rural farmhouse in the hope that the Paris Agreement will be implemented (assuming anyone wants him back).

Muire McCallion’s Maeve is a young and ebullient, fast-talking and quick-knitting extrovert who injects fresh energy and wild ideas into her local Mothers Out Front group. Bernie (Carmel McCafferty) is older and more temperamental, while Theresa (Abby Oliveira) was clearly the leader until Maeve started to step onto her shadow and now annoyingly flip flops between hating new ideas and totally embracing them.

Sole Purpose Productions have a history of staging challenging theatre with a firm grip on contemporary issues. Mothers Out Front has that potential to be a roller-coaster of a farce that hammers home the importance of reacting to the climate emergency. Instead, the premise is better than the structure of Edie Shillue’s script. While Oliveira, McCafferty and McCallion throw themselves wholeheartedly at the material they have to work with, the pace sags mid-way through and the scenes where the group rehearse videos they want to publish online turn into preachy fourth wall-breaking interruptions.

Last night’s performance in the Crescent Arts Centre was a bit pussyfooting rather than a Pussy Riot, although the balaclavas were colourful, the set contained some surprises, and there were many laughs along the way as the preposterous tale unfolded. Given that the script is packed full of statistics and factoids about the impact of climate change, it’s unfortunate that details around Twitter, WhatsApp and the radius of the black helicopter’s flightpath overhead are exaggerated.

Six years ago, Rosemary Jenkinson’s satirical Planet Belfast tackled dirty politics and green issues. Theatre is a terrific medium to explore the strengths and weaknesses is dearly-held worldviews. Yet Mothers Out Front somehow doesn’t quite have the courage of its convictions to commit to a dramatic plot and trust that the message will be heard and instead resorts to a weaker form of propaganda that educates more than it entertains.

Directed by Patricia Byrne and produced by Sole Purpose Productions and Zero Waste North West, each performance is followed by a Q&A with the playwright. You can catch Mothers Out Front on Sunday 19 May at An Coire, Maghera; Tuesday 21 and Wednesday 22 at The Derry Playhouse; Wednesday 29 May at Strule Arts Centre, Omagh; and on Thursday 30 May at The Alley Theatre Strabane.

Photo credit: Sole Purpose Productions

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