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Mother Love

Take the same ingredients: mother and child, a struggle for independence, a sense of loss, add a dash of guilt, mix well and divide evenly into three children's bedrooms. This is the essence of Mother Love, a trio of plays written by Mary Coffey exploring the intense nature of mother/child relationships.

What happens when the child that was expected is not the one that comes? Umbilical is the story of a mother (Raquel Sims) who mourns the child that she has lost and the story of the daughter (Bethany Miller) that she has. Told from two perspectives, Umbilical is a thought-provoking exploration of the unique bond that fuses together mother and child, a bond that can be cut but never broken.

In contrast, Apron Strings deals with the relationship between 45 year old Timothy (Simon Boyes) and his elderly mother (Felicity Cozens). Encouraged by his new 'friend', Rachel, Timothy has finally plucked up enough courage to move out from under his mother's roof but how far is mother willing to go to ensure he never escapes from under her thumb? A black comedy, Apron Strings will make you laugh until you realize Timothy's predicament is not all that funny!

The final piece, Nightlight, is a powerful drama depicting the relationship between Melanie (Gabrielle Stewart) and her mother (Deanne Graham). Guilt, grief and ghosts are confronted in this moving and sensitive story of what happens when a little girl goes out into a big world and a mother is too far away to come when she calls.

Mary says:

Mother Love began with the short piece Night Light - written and performed in the final year of my Theatre and Film degree at Victoria University. It was inspired by a number of events: The Ben Smart and Olivia Hope story; a documentary about a father who travelled to India in an attempt to discover what had happened to his missing daughter. Eventually he uncovered her murder and ultimately her body buried under her killer's house in a remote village. A third incident was of a more personal nature. My flat mate at the time had to identify the body and personal belongings of an Irish friend who had been travelling through Australia and died in a drowning accident. All these events made their way, sometimes consciously , sometimes unconsciously, into Night Light. A daughter grows up and heads out into the big world and in the face of tragedy a mother comes to terms with the fact that she can’t always be there to guide and protect. What must it be like for a parent when a child goes missing - the waiting, not knowing, needing to know but perhaps at the same time holding on to the slim chance that while there was no news there was still hope.

Later I thought what would happen if I took the same elements, a child’s bedroom for the setting, mother and child as the characters and themes centered around loss, a struggle for independence, and grief, adding death and a ghost to the mixture for good measure. I wrote Apron Strings which evolved into a black comedy about a son coming to terms with the tragedy of not being able to lose his mother! In performance it provided a nice contrast to the more serious and sensitive Night Light when it was performed alongside Nightlight as part of The 1999 Fringe Festival at Bats. It has taken another ten years to complete the task of turning the duo into a trio with the addition of the newly penned Umbilical. Of the three pieces, Umbilical was the most difficult to write. Originally I wanted to show the journey of a Mother who felt she could no longer cope with the needs of her severely autistic daughter and after the pressure became too much, she kills her. However, there was a much more interesting and poignant story. It just took me ten years to find it! I began to realise that what I was planning on presenting was only one part of the story. What about the daughter? Her story needed to be told too. Research led me to some amazing blogs written by autistic people. An insight into another kind of mind, a mind that thinks and feels and sees in a way that is different. Umbilical is one story but with two perspectives. No judgment , no comment, no politics. I’m now thinking perhaps I have a quartet in me...

Mother Love