Reviewer's Rating

Being a mother is a natural progression in a woman’s life, right? Many of us are not naive to the trials and tribulations that may come with pregnancy, labour or motherhood. But nobody really speaks about the struggles, the deep painful struggles that mothers experience. It can even be said that any negative vocalisation is stigmatised, and one can so easily be labelled as a “bad mother”.

Surrender dives headfirst into these difficulties experienced, showcasing Mother (Phoebe Ladenburg), a woman serving a prison sentence for reasons unaddressed till the end. This one-woman monologue shows Mother meeting her estranged now teenage daughter for the first time since being locked up. It’s awkward, and all she wants is to desperately reconnect. She tells the story of how they came to be in this situation – looking at the sleep deprivation a newborn can bring, as well as the complexities of the social care system.

This is an extremely sad story, with very insightful commentary on what it means to be a mother, how your individuality is ripped away from you by a being that you are meant to adore. The audience is instantly exposed to Mother’s pain, the lighting and switching back and forth from different scenes really exemplify her instability. You are in her world, in her head, and it’s not pretty. This play steps past the beauty of motherhood and exposes the fragility and exhaustion it brings. Mother hasn’t slept. Mother struggles.

Mother works an office job but is an aspiring actress – how legitimate her career is, is questionable – as we slowly learn she is not a reliable narrator. A baby, especially so for mothers, can hinder one’s career. Mother creates this delusion in her head of her unachieved success as she’s had to put her ambition on the back burner. The child must always come first. When she slips up, she is noticed and punished. The play tackles the harshness of our society and how the media lusts for failure. A notable detail is Mothers accent: standard queens English. The concentrated issues are not biased, motherhood is difficult for everyone, and some will be more adaptable to it than others.

The set was bare, it didn’t need much else, the lighting was the star of the show. My only grievance is the poetic prose the script tends to drift it. Going from colloquial language to a stylised version, it seems unnecessary to making the overall point. Nevertheless, this play makes you question the current rhetoric and think about the very real realities children can bring.

Mother & Co-Director: Phoebe Ladenburg

Writer & Co-Director: Sophie Swithinbank

Director Associate: Nancy Medina

Lighting Designer: Stacey Nurse

Sound Designer: Dominic Brennan

Venue: Arcola Theatre

Running time: 75 minutes (no interval)

Until Saturday 13th July

Review by Sofia Moran