"For me, it’s not about pointing the finger, or even holding our parents to account, it’s about a deeper understanding of self."
Cheryl May Coward-Walker discusses the theme of her new show The Wedding Speech, which comes to CPT Tue 15 - Sat 19 Nov.
For most women, their mothers are sacred, safe, trustworthy, givers of love who have their best interests at heart.
This is the mother and daughter relationship we’re sold from sitcoms to romcoms, and more often than not by our nearest and dearest, but what happens if your maternal bond doesn’t fit “my mum is my BFF” mould? What if the relationship is strained and prickly? What if you were the parent to your parent? What if you had to parent yourself?
This conversation feels unsafe for a plethora of reasons, but probably most responsible for this is the all-consuming guilt that gives me pause before doing the unthinkable; critiquing The Mother archetype, the one who sacrificed and suffered to bring me into the world – how dare I?
Welp, as an artist I feel like it’s my job to bring the unspeakable to the table. I think it’s essential to hold things up to the light for interrogation, and to allow people to project what they will into the work.
The unwillingness to ‘go-there’ can keep people stuck in trauma that they have normalised. I hope that the play helps people to feel seen and to extend compassion for themselves and for complex characters in the play and potentially their lives.
I’m interested in what might be on the other side of having the conversation about unmet needs from a primarycaregiver to a child, without the guilt and shame that is usually associated with being ‘ungrateful’?
For me, it’s also not about pointing the finger, or even holding our parents to account, it’s about a deeper understanding of self.
I know from my own experience, understanding that the way I used to relate to powerful women that challenged me professionally i.e., to shrink and become passive aggressive, was part of a coping mechanism I designed for my mum. I couldn’t beat her, but I could ignore her. I couldn’t challenge her directly, but I could rebel in secret.
Where did passive aggression get me in the end? Absolutely nowhere.
It’s a dishonourable and toxic trait that I developed when I realised that expressing my truth wasn’t safe, and that self-preservation put me in control more than relating my truth did.
Understanding the ways my behaviour disempowered me, and to see clearly how my logic was being applied, most of the time unconsciously, meant that I could change the way I was showing up, and learn to own my feelings and communicate them properly with the person concerned.
The protagonist in The Wedding Speech, hasn’t quite reached this level of emotional intelligence, but she’s on her way!
The play is an amusing take on a less-than-rosy mother and daughter relationship. Rosemary, the lead character, is about to make a speech at her mother’s wedding. She yearns for connection but shuns it at the same time. Rosemary takes far too much responsibility, not for how she’s feeling, but for how her mother feels at any given moment, a classic toxic bond which she’s working through in real time on stage!
The work involved in this isn’t easy, but it has the power to heal entire generations. To reduce this conversation to indulgent mum-bashing is to rob people of their healing. Healing gives us options. It’s empowering to know that you get to choose a better way of being. Nothing is fixed. You can cultivate the freedom to be all of you.
Tue 15 - Sat 19 Nov at 9pm at Camden People's Theatre
Before heading to The Hope Theatre Tue 29 Nov - Sat 3 Dec, and then continuing to tour in 2023.