Theatre Q&A: Any Mother Would

By Anna Rogers | 7th February 2017

rehearsals york theatre playback theatre

Rehearsing physicality and movement

"They’re all over the world; women that move molehills rather than mountains."

Much like David Attenborough shows his viewers the hidden, lovingly guarded, intimate moments of nature, Any Mother Would does the same, but in a 3 bed detached in a rural cul-de-sac. Frances Towers is a Mother, Methodist and much loved Maverick and we are in her living room. In her nest made of photos, piles of paper, ornaments and nic-nacs from years gone by, she busily flits from one job to the next whilst simultaneously caring for, amusing, aggravating and over-feeding her family. Sound quite normal? Well this is no ordinary woman - because there is no such thing!

In the only way she can, she takes everything that her son, daughter and husband throw at her and constructs it into something that works…it may be a bit rickety and slightly faulty in places, but it works.

Semi autobiographic and infused with stories shared with NDB1 over the years, Any Mother Would does not aim to revolutionise or re-imagine family dynamics, but rather give time and importance to the forgotten or overlooked stories that create the tapestry of who we are. Any Mother Would promises to be an amusing, relatable and heartwarming experience which sends you off home to tell your own stories. There will be a playback theatre performance in-between the matinee and evening performance on Sunday 12 March.

We have a chat with renowned local Director and Writer Matthew Harper about his new play Any Mother Would, a new one-act play celebrating those ‘normal’ but extraordinary women that keep us going.

Q: What OR Who inspired you to write Any Mother Would?

Two things mainly - the stories of others and my own family. Since 2012, Next Door But One have been using Playback Theatre to help different people tell their own stories - from vulnerable adults experiencing loneliness to care workers, BME residents of York to local government employees, secondary school pupils to older people and single parents to large Muslim families. What has always been so interesting (and heartwarming) was that when given an open forum to tell a story that meant a lot to them - they weren’t ones of grandeur or the fantastical, but of the day-to-day, person-to-person idiosyncrasies that make us who we are. Common themes kept reappearing - home, family, friendship, motherhood, belonging.

Every time I heard one of those stories it automatically made me think of the parallels in my own family - I’d chuckle to myself, shed a tear or just cherish a memory of mine for a little bit longer. And after hearing so many of these kinds of stories I decided to blend the two together and that’s how it came about.

Q: Community is a huge part of the company’s ethos for Next Door But One, in what ways does Any Mother Would celebrate community?

The arts are full of high tech, in-you-face impact theatre told on an epic scale, as is so much of the news we are fed through the media. Whilst there is a place, need and importance for those, we still cannot let go of the smaller, more intricate and intimate moments that make up who and where we are. Sometimes we can focus so much on the bigger picture, the impending future, that we forget to look at the here and now and what is on our doorstep. Any Mother Would celebrates the small wins and the unsung heroes of our community and hopefully, as with all of our work, gives the audience time out to appreciate this and realise that we aren’t all that dissimilar from one another.

Q: The play is semi-biographical, how does it feel as a Director and Writer to see such a personal script brought to life?

It is incredibly rewarding in so many ways. Like so many of us, I love sharing anecdotes from my family and reveling in that moment, but what has already happened in rehearsals, and what I hope will also occur for the audience, is different people keep saying ‘that happened to my family’ or ‘I am so like that character’ and so more stories are told. And that cycle, of sharing stories and giving them importance continues - and that is what I really love about theatre! Also on a very personal note, my mam, who I was extremely close to passed away in October of last year - she was the matriarch of the Harper household and always central to any family story. So this is also a celebration and testimony to her.


Q: Have you any plans to take Any Mother Would further?

Right now, not exactly. If we have a really good response to it then it would be brilliant to take it to other venues and audiences and maybe develop the narrative some more and include new stories that are shared with the company….who knows. I’d like to think though that everyone who sees it goes away and tells or just thinks about a really important story of their own family or community - if that’s what happens afterwards, then I’d be happy.

Q: Tell us some more about the Playback element of Any Mother Would

Playback Theatre is a form of improvised theatre where audiences are invited to tell their own stories and have them spontaneously performed by a group of actors. There is something quite magic about what happens within playback - by having your story created immediately into a piece of theatre, somehow gives it real credibility and also makes it a story that was once in your head, a story that is being enjoyed by many. This element will be delivered by Playback Theatre York, following Sunday’s matinee. It aims to give the audience the opportunity to celebrate the stories that have come to mind by watching Any Mother Would.

Q: In no more than 5 words describe Any Mother Would

‘If theatre was a hug’

(this would be it!)

All proceeds from tickets will go to Cancer Research UK. Note: This performance includes strong language.

Performances: Saturday 11 March (7.30pm) and Sunday 12 March (2.30pm and 7.30pm) at Theatre 3, York St John University Enquiries: [email protected]

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