Multiple sold out performances for the latest Mom’s the Word incarnation, playing now at the Belfry Theatre, gives insight into the avid following the moms have garnered over their decades-long theatrical journey. Like the previous plays in the series, Mom’s the Word 3: Nest ½ Empty – written and performed by Jill Daum, Alison Kelly, Robin Nichol, Barbara Pollard & Deborah Williams – is filled with insights, secrets, and ribald humour as the moms bring tales of the trials and tribulations of adult children.
“When we wrote the first one about having babies, the experience of having a baby and keeping a baby alive is pretty universal. You gotta do the basic stuff and you are short on sleep and your sex drive is gone, and everybody has the same experiences. They don’t deal with it the same way because they are all individual humans but they are all dealing with the same thing,” said Robin Nichol, one of the original moms who has returned to the stage after 13 years. “Now when we got to the teenage thing and now this one, the possibility of experiences just branches.”
The original play travelled the world, first with them and then with other actors. The success continued with their sequels.
“This group of women changed the theatrical landscape, not just in Canada, but on several continents,” said director Wayne Harrison – also known as play doctor and defender-of-the-husbands.
Now, the original moms are back on stage with a show exploring how their kids are grown, their marriages have “evolved,” and their bodies are backfiring.
Harrison has been involved with the Mom’s the Word collective for nearly 20 years, having first met them in the mid-90s at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival while they were touring Australia. He eventually acquired the Northern Hemisphere rights to Mom’s the Word and started doing productions in Chicago, Glasgow and eventually in the West End of London.
“That was the beginning of a very long and fruitful relationship where they would ring me up now and then and say, ‘Hey, we’re pregnant with a new idea and would you come and be the play doctor and help us give birth to this project?” said Harrison.
The success came as a huge surprise to the moms.
“It’s like chasing a snowball down a hill. We never expected it. We thought the only people that would give a damn about it would be women in the exact same situation that we were. So the response to it blew us out of the water,” said Nichol. “People laughed at us. People who didn’t have kids, or people whose kids have grown up – everybody responded, because everybody has a mom.”
The magic recipe the moms tapped into was humorously exploiting what it means to be human, what it means to be parent or a child or a partner. Life’s embarrassing moments could be shared, because they could be universally appreciated.
“The form of theatre that they do, which is what I call theatre of recognition, is where the audience is actually participating in the storytelling because it is a mirror being held up to them. It is their stories as well as the moms’ stories that are being told,” said Harrison, who commends the moms on taking risks. “It’s easier to do a Chekhov or Shakespeare where you can go to school on previous productions, whether they were hits or failures or whatever. You can formulate your view of it or interpretation of it by either absorbing or rejecting what has happened in the past. But when you are doing new work you have no map to follow. You need to not only find the answers to the questions but that you ask the right questions in the first place.”
With success, came growing pains – both professional and personal.
They had to figure out how the business worked, said Nichol, as they were suddenly involved in commercial theatre which they knew nothing about. It is a completely different animal than not-for-profit, which is what most of Canada is, she said.
“We’ve taught ourselves a lot,” said Nichol. “And because we are true West Coast kids, we almost exploded because we weren’t getting along. Instead of going the way of the Beatles, we went into group therapy – dropped a hunk of dough on group therapy and it worked. Me, being the stoic doubter, thought, ‘I don’t need to be friends with these people, I just need some way to continue to work with them because this is making us money’. But we came out of it best friends. So, yay therapy.”
“Sometimes these things aren’t necessarily played up in our popular culture, so it is really good to have the airing and have the reflection and recognition,” said Harrison. “It’s been a terrific theatrical and human journey.”
Mom’s the Word 3: Nest ½ Empty runs from July 24 to Aug. 12 at the Belfry Theatre.
“It’s just a treat to be here. It’s a treat to be back at the Belfry. My first professional gig was in this theatre in 1986,” said Nichol.
Mom’s the Word 3: Nest ½ Empty is written and performed by Jill Daum, Alison Kelly, Robin Nichol, Barbara Pollard & Deborah Williams.
Tickets are available at 250-385-6815 or online at tickets.belfry.bc.ca. Prices are subject to change.
Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.