Inspired by the stories of hundreds of mothers, this new musical, premiering at Birmingham Hippodrome’s Patrick Studio, wears its heart on its sleeve from the very beginning. The show is a celebration of motherhood, its ups and its downs, and a reminder in a world aspiring for perfection that sometimes it’s okay to just be good enough.
The musical was conceived by writer and lyricist Emily Beecher – who initially put pen to paper with her own experiences following a diagnosis for postnatal depression. After discussions with other women, Emily realised that many new mothers battle with a variety of problems and worries – and so was born The Good Enough Mums Club.
After spending ten years collecting stories from mums of all backgrounds, Emily blended their tales to create the musical featuring five women brought together by motherhood. Meeting weekly at a playgroup in their local community centre, they create a special bond – and when the local council threatens to close the facility, they decide to fight for their club.
The show features a wide range of mothering experiences including postnatal depression, the death of a child, lack of support from partners, isolation, body changes, loss of identity and low self-confidence. But by sharing their trials, the women become firm friends and find consolation for their problems.
The performances are hugely talented, bursting with energy, warmth and enthusiasm so that the bonds of friendship emanate from the stage. There’s also a wonderful harmony to the group in their singing and dancing as well as some impressive solos across the board.
Joanna Kirkland brings plenty of humour as the seemingly perfect mum Bea who runs the playground and teaches her children French and German – but whose sad secret is the total lack of support from her partner. Her foil is Jade Samuels’ Chantel who is always late, struggles for money, is quick-tempered and yet has a heart of gold.
Belinda Wollaston shows us the desperation of postpartum psychosis as her character Esme sits alone in her home, afraid to go out and begging her baby to give her some peace before being overtaken by frightening hallucinations.
Amy Ross’s Sophie initially appears to be the happy-go-lucky mum who always cheers the others up, until she too shares her tragedy. And Rebecca Bernice Amissah’s Michelle brings another facet to the discussion as she shares how she not only faces judgement from other women but as a Black woman finds that also touched with racism.
The music by Verity Quade is catchy and performed by a live band at the rear of the stage. Directed by Sarah Meadows and Michelle Payne with movement and choreography by Natasha Harrison, there are some great song and dance pieces – not least the opening track in which the five women trace their pregnancy journey with choreography reminiscent of some of the raunchier numbers in the musical Chicago.
Libby Todd’s set takes us into the hall where the group meets but with a separate room which can double up as Esme’s home.
The musical is just one element of The Good Enough Mums Club – which is a social movement aiming to bring all mothers together in supporting each other. The show practices what it preaches having been written, directed, designed, choreographed, stage managed, performed and produced by mums.