Reviews London TheatreReviewsWest End & Central Published 11 January 2018

Review: My Mum’s a Twat at the Royal Court

January 8 - January 20

A cult hit: Anoushka Warden’s debut monologue is bold, brash and baggy.

Rosemary Waugh
My Mum's a Twat, Royal Court Theatre. Photo: Helen Murray.

My Mum’s a Twat, Royal Court Theatre. Photo: Helen Murray.

Teenage girls take teenage girls seriously, but most adults don’t. The best children’s and YA authors, however, always do, whether that’s Dolphin and Star dealing with their Illustrated Mum or Georgia Nicolson being blinded by her own boy entrancers.* My Mum’s a Twat, a semi-autobiographical monologue by Anoushka Warden, isn’t written for teenage girls (or at least, not exclusively, as the dedication is “for any person who came out of a female human”), but like the work of Louise Rennison and co. its success hinges on an obvious love and respect for its main character, never once stooping to patronise.

The play’s target audience is, I suppose, someone flirting with the edge of thirty. It’s Jacqueline Wilson with cum jokes, or Angus and Thongs, if the snogging was swapped for shagging. Girl (Patsy Ferran) lives in a crappy part of North Somerset [already, I feel for her] with an endless supply of siblings and a Twat for a mother, who has started a new relationship with a Moron (or so she summarises it). The biggest glitch in the parental system is that Twat/Mum has joined a cult that operates under the name of The Heal Thyself Centre for Self-Realisation and Transcendence and is based in North Barrow (there’s one hell of a lot of ‘Barrows’, long and short, in that part of the world and it’s the little details like this that make parts of a Warden’s writing a joy). Soon after joining, the Heal Thyself patrol convince the girl’s mother to relocate to Canada (birthplace of Moron) and open a sister centre.

With a row of punk-haired trolls looking down from a bedroom shelf, references to Roxy hoodies and a playlist made up of everything from Pixies to 2Pac, it’s going to bring grins to the faces of many Millennial audience members. But it escapes being nostalgia porn by using its references sparingly and paying the same attention to detail elsewhere, like with those Barrows and with the vagaries of hippie floaty fashion. Again, this is something the play shares with writing for the teenaged market: an obsession for namechecking brands, bands and cultural quirks [please someone make my day and rewrite the text using only emojis – I’ll buy you cake if you do].

But perhaps the most important way that My Mum’s a Twat resembles decent writing for young people is that jumbled up in the mess of vowel-heavy nicknames, low-level pyromania, weed-smoking and a compulsion to hang out of windows is some ball-breaking sadness. Early on in the narrative, Girl recounts being thrown out of car and onto the pavement by Moron. “I had hit my head on the pavement and it was bleeding quite a lot so I was crying although I wasn’t crying coz I was scared and sad, I was crying coz I was angry, really crazy mad.”

Then there’s ‘Sucky’, the piece of bathroom hand towel she appropriates as a replacement for bedtime kisses after her being told she can only have a kiss from her mum if she gives one to the new boyfriend too. It’s in this way that Warden most respects her character, by suggesting that her teenage angst isn’t entirely unjustified. And it’s this that makes it in many ways a lovely and very worthwhile piece of writing, despite a few flaws – it’s worth remembering this is Warden’s debut play, so a few imperfections should probably be expected.

At 80 minutes, the work is a teensy bit on the long side for a one-woman monologue. Notably, Vicky Featherstone and Jude Christian’s co-production has cut several parts that appear in the printed playtext. These include a few very funny passages, like when Girl has to spend two hours watching the weather channel and listening to Pachelbel’s Canon on repeat to calm down after ingesting shrooms laced with acid. There’s also a scene where she has sex with a 31-year-old guy in the front seat of his car, present in the text but not performed by Ferran.

Given the recent off-stage debates around Rita, Sue and Bob Too (opening one day after My Mum’s a Twat), there were perhaps numerous reasons why this scene could have proved a distraction from the rest of Warden’s play. But wider issues aside, removing some of the more obviously shocking ‘sex and drugs’ passages from the slightly bloated text allows the quieter parts, where Girl’s childishness is foregrounded, to breathe, creating a much more nuanced and subtle play than, for example, The Diary of a Teenage Girl at the Southwark Playhouse.

Of the parts included is a moment when Girl takes coke for the first time and it is “GOOOOOOOOOOOOOODDDDDDD…” It’s surprising how refreshing it feels to have a scene admitting to the absolute pleasure of taking drugs, without any apology, judgement or ‘message’, and without it being the precursor to a depressing downfall. Ferran’s performance reiterates the production’s combination of awkward hopelessness and shocking fearlessness. She’s hugely convincing as a teenager, inspiring the urge to wrap her up in a coat and look after her.

Following so much good stuff, the ending is a bit scrappy. A line stating that “there’s no tidy conclusion to end this on” not only clunks but seems disingenuous, as this statement is precisely Warden’s attempt at concluding. The sentiment, however, is gratifyingly bold in its refusal to bow to feel-good motifs of family drama. As Girl grows up (presumably changing her name to ‘Woman’), she comes to view her mother as less of a Twat and more of a flawed human with vulnerabilities exploited by a morally corrupt organisation. “There’s a strong chance she would still have ended up being a twat, just one on her own terms and not their’s,” muses Girl. Can’t hope for anyone to take you more seriously than that.

*false eyelashes

My Mum’s a Twat is at the Royal Court Theatre until January 20th. For more details, click here.

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Rosemary Waugh

Rosemary is a freelance arts and theatre journalist, who regularly writes for Time Out and The Stage.

Review: My Mum’s a Twat at the Royal Court Show Info


Directed by Vicky Featherstone, Jude Christian

Written by Anoushka Warden

Cast includes Patsy Ferran

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