Secret Life of a Mother is a ” jewel of a play” on the Toronto stage
You should get your tickets for Secret Life of a Mother right now. While you’re at it, get one for your friend. The one who says she doesn’t like ‘theatre’, — “all that drama and those fake sounding voices.” It’s playing at The Theatre Centre and it’s wonderful. I loved it. You’ll love it. Your friend who doesn’t like things that feel dramatic will love it.
It’s hard for me to think of this as a play. Even though it was in a theatre with an audience it felt like an intimate evening with close friends, sharing stories about pregnancy, miscarriage, childbirth, and being a mother, the way that good friends do.
Secret Life of a Mother was written by Hannah Moscovitch with Maev Beaty and Ann-Marie Kerr, and co-created with Marinda de Beer. This is Hannah’s story and its the truest description of pregnancy, miscarriage, childbirth, and motherhood, that I’ve seen, heard, or read, other than talking with friends. No sugar-coating, no bullshit, the good and the bad all in one place. There’s laughter in the middle of sad parts, it breaks the tension a bit.
It’s Hannah’s story, but it’s told by Maev. Beaty is wonderful as Hannah, relaxed as if she’s just talking to the audience. This is not to say that she’s emotionless, not at all, but the emotion feels real, not acted. At one point her voice sounds as if she’s struggling to hold back tears. As she’s walking back across the stage she blows her nose. It sounds like real nose blowing.
Everything about her is perfect; her voice, her timing, her body language, everything.
As Hannah, Beaty carries a ‘script’ and occasionally reads from it. Sometimes she steps out of the Hannah character, puts down the script, and says “It’s Maev” and tells us a story of her own. The change from one character to the other is very subtle. I can’t identify what’s different but there are definitely two characters in the play.
I like Leigh Ann Vardy’s use of lighting to emphasize which character is speaking. When it’s Hannah the light focuses on her and the area around her is fairly dark. When it’s Maev the houselights go up about halfway.
The lighting works well with Cameron Davis’s projections. The one that really impresses me is the image projected on to a piece of paper in a tank of water. It seems like magic.
Camellia Koo’s scenic design is suitably low-key so that it doesn’t overwhelm Beaty and the story. The backdrop is some kind of dark reflective material that I find fascinating while waiting for the show to start and then don’t notice again.
Sometimes I see a play that is so perfect, the characters are perfect, the timing is perfect, everything seems to work the way it should, that it’s almost as if it just happened organically. The truth is it takes an amazing director to get a result like that and, based on Secret Life of a Mother, Ann-Marie Kerr is an amazing director.
For the end of the play, Moscovitch plays Hannah. Her description of her love for her son and the depth of the joy she feels when she’s with him are deeply touching. Thinking about it now brings tears to my eyes again. You are a good mother Hannah!
Secret Life of a Mother feels like an ephemeral piece of theatre. I can’t imagine it being done by anyone other than Moscovitch and Beaty and I can’t imaging them remounting it. It’s a jewel of a play; beautifully written, beautifully acted, and a beautiful tribute to their friendship. You really should go see it. Take your mother. Take your daughter. Take your spouse. Take your friend. Go by yourself. Whatever. Just go.
- Secret Life of a Mother is playing until November 11 at The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen St West)
- Performance times: Tuesday through Saturday at 8:00pm, and Sunday Nov 11; Sunday Matinee at 2:00pm on Oct 28 and Nov 4; Nov 2 – ASL interpreted performance; Nov 6 – Relaxed performance
- Ticket prices: (Oct. 25 to 28) $20.00, (Oct 30 to Nov 11) Regular $30.00, Student, Senior, Arts Worker $22.00
- Tickets are available online, by phone at 416-538-0988, and in person at the box office
- Audience advisory: Graphic descriptions in the show could be triggering for some people. Please feel free to call the box office, or ask us in person, if you would like more information in advance.
Photo of Maev Beaty by Kyle Purcell