The Door, Birmingham REP, Thursday 2nd November, 2017
Single mothers get a bad press. Stigmatised by society they are seen as scroungers, promiscuous and slatternly – when really it’s the men that should get the brunt of our disapproval. At least the mothers stayed to bring up the babies, while the fathers disappear.
In this autobiographical piece, writer-performer Elinor Coleman not only states the case for a new appreciation of single mums (“doing remarkable things in difficult circumstances”) she also entertains us with a window into her world. Pregnant at 20, Ellie goes it alone. Yes, she has a strong support network of family and friends but it’s still a lonely life. And everyday business brings with it the sting of public condemnation. An encounter on a bus is typical of the judgmental looks and remarks she faces all the time.
Also, Ellie feels there is a gap in her family unit. She seeks a man to join her and her daughter – and after a few false starts – finds one. Has Ellie found her happy ending halfway through the show’s running time? It certainly seems that way…
But no. Life isn’t as neat as all that. The relationship ends and Ellie decides to abort her second child. Stark scenes ensue as yet again Ellie lays herself open to criticism.
Coleman is a likeable presence, honest and funny. There is a lot of wisdom in her words. This extended monologue with original songs is bright and breezy with a dark undertone. What comes across is a slice of contemporary real-life experience, an underdog in our society demonstrating her worth and prompting us to re-evaluate any misguided preconceptions or prejudices we may harbour about young single mums.
The show is underscored by live music from Ricardo Rocha, and Chahine Yavroyan’s lighting design provides a range of settings for the story and expressionistic effects for the changing tone.
All in all, this is an amusing, affecting piece, vibrantly performed and with something to say.