by Lynn on November 7, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Theatre Centre, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Hannah Moscovitch with Maev Beaty and Ann-Marie Kerr

Co-created by Marinda de Beer

Directed by Ann-Marie Kerr

Scenic design by Camellia Koo

Lighting by Leigh Ann Vardy

Projections designed by Cameron Davis

Sound by Debashis Sinha

Costumes by Erika Connor

Cast: Maev Beaty

Hannah Moscovitch

Heat-squeezing, stunning theatre produced by masters about motherhood as you generally don’t hear about but should.

The Story. This is mainly a story of modern motherhood as the creators really experienced it. They heard the ‘regular’ stories of motherhood and didn’t buy it, so they decided to do their own piece presenting the truth of modern motherhood.

It focuses on playwright Hannah Moscovitch’s journey to motherhood with input from actor Maev Beaty, director Ann-Marie Kerr and Marinda de Beer. It covers the elation of seeing the ‘baby’ in an ultrasound image; the gory bits of miscarriages; the prolonged labours of labour; the uncertainty of how good a mother you are and balancing work too; coping with being a workaholic; and the heart-busting joy of watching the kid grow, have a vocabulary and a sense of humour that bends you over laughing.

It’s the hard, harsh stuff that is the secret life of a mother because perhaps the multitudes don’t want to hear the ‘other’ side, but should.

The Production. Director Ann-Marie Kerr has directed a spare, elegant, evocative production. She can create the most beautiful of moments and the most muscular, fearless situations without flinching. It is beautifully designed by Camellia Koo in which there is only a black chair plus two ‘tanks’ with water and a screen at the back for projections. The lighting by Leigh Ann Vardy is both muted and illuminating in a  way that makes the audience lean forward to focus on moments that are compelling.

Maev Beaty, barefoot and wearing comfortable pants and a top, is almost shy as she comes forward to introduce herself saying she is playing Hannah Moscovitch her very close friend. Beaty, Hannah Moscovitch, director Ann-Marie Kerr and producer Marinda de Beer have been working on this show for six years. During that time pregnancies were kept secret until they couldn’t be; miscarriages happened; babies were born.

Beaty puts a white piece of paper in a rectangular tank of water and presses the sheet against a glass side of the tank. This is Hannah Moscovitch’s first ultra sound of her growing foetus. Rather than a murky, fuzzy photo of a form of a baby, Ann-Marie Kerr has a projection of a face of a laughing three year old child appear on the paper—this is the face of the person who would become Elijah, Hannah Moscovitch’s son.  This makes the image so personal and immediate. It gives the audience a stake in the process.

There are harrowing turns of events that happen so quietly that the realization hits like a smack. When Hannah has a prolonged labour the same projection of that little boy’s face is illuminated on the tight fist of Maev Beaty as the labouring Hannah Moscovitch.

Maev Beaty lends elegance, poise and grace to every role she plays. Secret Life of a Mother is something else again. As Hannah, Maev Beaty realizes all the doubt, obsession and uncertainty that woman has about motherhood and work. Beaty also conveys the pain, sweat and despair of wanting to push but not being able to in a labour that is so long she takes the audience with her. Beaty’s own harsh recollections are told so calmly and with such understatement they leave you gasping.

The last part of the play is handled by Hannah Moscovitch herself. She is almost reticent but ultimately conveys the confidence and joy she has had from this experience of motherhood

Comment. Hannah Moscovitch’s plays are deeply thought, intellectually rigorous and funny. Secret Life of a Mother is full of self-doubt, the mess and despair of miscarrying, coping with work and motherhood and finally the ecstatic joy of it, the realization that she’s good at it.

Maev Beaty has created a body of work that is rich, varied and so full of compelling artistry you just naturally go see her work, no matter what the project.

Ann-Marie Kerr had directed some of the most sensitive, dangerous, hard-hitting productions I’ve ever seen and again, I would go no matter what the project.

I would swim through oceans of gore to see the work of these three titans of the theatre. And so should you.

The Theatre Centre Presents:

Began: Oct. 20, 2018.

Closes: Nov. 11, 2018.

Running Time: 90 minutes, approx.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Eleanor O'Connor November 7, 2018 at 11:14 pm

I just got in from seeing this show. Yes, you must go and see it!
Although like many works today it is biographical, it holds many universal truths.
Primarily for women , but not exclusively : The joy of parenthood, the fear of failing, the sharing of love, the need to be oneself in order to be a good mother.
Oh, yeah the theatrecraft on display.
So sTisfying


2 Ellen Denny November 8, 2018 at 12:04 am

I could not agree more with your last stanza. Oceans of gore. TITANS indeed.