Culture Editor Ilina Jha reviews The Good Enough Mums Club, praising the musical numbers and the performances of the cast in this brand-new musical
Trigger warnings for this review include: racism, child loss, postnatal depression and psychosis
The Good Enough Mums Club is a brand-new comedy musical all about motherhood created by Emily Beecher and directed by Sarah Meadows and Michelle Payne. Having its world premiere at the Birmingham Hippodrome, The Good Enough Mums Club follows five women who attend a local playgroup, venting and bonding over the trials and tribulations of motherhood. Forced with the closure of the community centre where they meet, the women rally together to find a way to continue the playgroup. The show stars Rebecca Bernice Amissah as Michelle, Joanna Kirkland as Bea, Amy Ross as Sophie, Jade Samuels as Chantel, and Belinda Wollaston as Esme.
Beecher’s own experience of motherhood was the initial inspiration for the show – she struggled with postnatal depression and postnatal psychosis, as well as frustration with herself for not being the ‘perfect mother.’ At the press reception before the show, we got to hear from Beecher herself about the long, 11-year journey from the show’s conception through to its birth (see what I did there?). Sharing her story with other mums and listening to their struggles led to the idea of The Good Enough Mums Club – a show based on the real experiences of mothers. Beecher told us how she pitched the show to various theatres for five years, and the most common question she was asked was: ‘Why isn’t there a man in it?’ She remarked that mothers are often the foils to the male heroes in musicals rather than protagonists in their own right. Beecher and her team spoke to hundreds of women as they developed the show over 11 years, and their experiences have shaped The Good Enough Mums Club into what it is. Entering the Patrick Studio, you can hear such tracks as ‘Rolling in the Deep’ by Adele, ‘Single Ladies’ by Beyoncé, and ‘Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)’ by Kelly Clarkson playing. Is it a coincidence that all these artists are mothers? I don’t think so.
The show opens with a hilarious group song that charts pregnancy from conception through to labour and birth. The cast are all fantastic singers, and the musical numbers throughout are a real strength of the show – they are by turns funny, angry, lonely, and desperately sad. A particular highlight is Esme’s song about her struggle with postnatal depression and psychosis – Wollaston delivers a truly powerful and emotional performance that does justice to the topic at hand. This is just one example of how The Good Enough Mums Club doesn’t shy away from the tough topics of motherhood, including Chantel’s struggle as a single mother to provide for her children or Michelle experiencing racism and fearing for her sons’ futures as black boys growing up in Britain. I think that these themes could have been pushed a bit further in the show – for example, Michelle wishes she could have a proper conversation with the well-intentioned Bea (who is white) about race but feels unable to do so without Bea getting defensive. It would have been nice to see them eventually have that conversation.
However, the show moves swiftly between comic scenes and more serious moments with ease, and the cast’s performances are impeccable. Knowing that all the actors are themselves mothers makes this show all the more special – when they sing their final number about being ‘good enough mums,’ it feels as if it is the actors themselves conveying this message just as much as their characters. The programme states that The Good Enough Mums Club is ‘proudly produced, written, directed, designed, choreographed, stage managed, and performed by mums.’ Indeed, looking at the list of everyone involved in the show, I don’t think I’ve ever seen more women represented. This speaks to how important it is to have shows that actively centre women both in the story and in all aspects of a show’s production.
Overall, The Good Enough Mums Club is a great new musical that certainly doesn’t shy away from the realities of motherhood, which makes you appreciate your own mums more – I had tears in my eyes thinking about my mother as the show drew to a close. Hilarious, heartwarming, and honest, this show is a credit to Beecher and her team.
The Good Enough Mums Club plays at the Birmingham Hippodrome on 28th October and is on tour throughout the UK.
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