Hawke's Bay Arts Festival / 27-28 October 2019, Blyth Performing Arts Centre / By Rosheen FitzGerald
The polished blonde wood of the Blyth is reflected in the sea of perfectly coiffed, pastel clad ladies that make up the bulk of the audience. The Havelock North yummy mummies are out in force for Rants in the Dark — the blog turned book turned play penned by straight-talking Wellington wordsmith, Emily Writes.
The three-women strong cast bring us on Emily’s real-life early mothering journey — a warts-and-all catalogue of anxieties, frustrations and judgements filtered through the fog of sleep deprivation. Players use handheld microphones, an odd device, almost crossing the threshold into stand up. The fourth wall is frequently broken, the audience addressed directly. A series of vignettes depict intimately relatable scenes — 3am social-media scrolling on the toilet; the futility of tidying up; whisper fighting with a partner; the identity politics of Thomas the Tank Engine; the endless why’s of toddlerhood; hormonal ugly crying. The weight of judgement looms large — from pass-remarkable strangers; perfectly presented Pinterest showoffs; smug earth mothers; the ‘in my day committee’ whose precise hindsight contrasts with their thick spectacles. Alongside these tales of everymother are details specific to Emily herself. The trauma of having a seriously ill child. Her catapult to fame via a viral blogpost and the inevitable internet backlash. It’s all presented with a wry, larger than life, almost slapstick humour. The audience laps it up. Unless these ladies have been scrupulous with their pelvic floor exercises, I doubt there’s a dry pair of knickers in the house. We are all mothers after all.
The take-home point, woven throughout and stated explicitly at the end, is to give yourself a break, you’re not alone, you might not be doing it perfectly but you’re doing it. It’s a perfectly valid point, and I don’t doubt that Emily Writes’ blog offered a refuge for parents feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of being responsible for tiny humans in a world that seems to want to vilify them for every little thing, given the chance. But there’s just something so terribly white and middle class about the whole package. Yes, parenting is hard. Yes, there is a bewildering array of conflicting opinions on how the world thinks you should be raising your children. But we choose who to listen to, who to believe. Looking externally for validation, either in confirming your worst suspicions that you are a terrible parent, or from someone like Emily who tells you you’re just fine, are just two sides of a coin.
(This review was altered on 1st November 2019 and all comments removed.)
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