Reviewed – 3rd November 2017
“Liburd transforms into different characters with the switch of a scrunchie and a skilful adjustment of eyebrow intensity”
A projector beams three simple statistics; one in four families is headed by a single parent; there are two million single parents in the UK; and that 91% of those single parents are mothers. It is on those terms that we must confront Muvvahood, the one-woman show about the experience of raising a child as a single woman. Written and performed by Libby Liburd, this piece draws directly on her own experiences and those of other single women.
Muvvahood’s first half is a lecture/standup fusion peppered with clips from politicians while its second half comprises monologues drawn directly from other mothers’ real experiences. Together, the research and the storytelling feel thorough without loss of emotional backbone, and both sections are, by turns, touching, funny, and challenging.
Liburd is a terrific performer and she effortlessly switches between skits and transforms into different characters with the switch of a scrunchie and a skilful adjustment of eyebrow intensity. Forays into the audience are a (disappointingly rare) joy, with excellent banter in a skit involving audience members, a purse, and some vicious fag-packet maths. Commentary on political noises on single motherhood is lively and woven well against loose sketches and very personal insights into Liburd’s own life as a single mother.
The monologues are more formal, and are each introduced by the projector. These are purely performance pieces, telling the joyous and devastating stories of real mothers, and Liburd excels in giving those stories a voice. Only one of the five feels weaker than the others; it is a Skype conversation in which Liburd chats to her laptop while her fellow Skyper (a single mother pal) is pre-recorded and projected for the audience. While Liburd utterly dominates a stage on her own, I didn’t quite buy the direct interaction between her and her pre-recorded friend. It is, nevertheless, a great little story in its own right.
Directed by Julie Addy, Muvvahood is both meaty and poignant, yet never bogs itself down. The excellent Liburd and effective usage of lighting and projection drive heavy themes with urgency but also a lightness of touch that invites the audience in without crowding them. However, while Muvvahood grapples many different topics and stories, I wonder if this comes at the expense of depth into any one of them. Nevertheless, I leave my seat entertained, engaged, and more enlightened than when I sat down.
Reviewed by Matthew Wild
Photography by David Monteith-Hodge
was at The Park Theatre