How did a meeting at the school gates lead to the premiere of a new play at London’s Playground Theatre. Director Yasmeen Arden tells us why she’s so excited to the direct MUM, Juliet Cowan’s first full-length play, inspired by her own mother’s experiences with dementia. Time to get booking!
MUM is a play about identity, love and losing your mind. Roz and Laurel are struggling to manage their mum, who has dementia. Mum is struggling to manage the real world and the compelling world of her hallucinations. What does it mean to be a mother? Who gets to decide what is real? And when is it OK to laugh instead of cry?
The premiere production is actor Juliet Cowan‘s first full-length play. Amanda Boxer plays the title role and is joined in MUM by Sian Ejiwunmi-Le Berre and Lucille Findlay as her children Roz and Laurel, with Lilly Driscoll and Martin Edwards completing the cast.
Talking to… Yasmeen Arden
In addition to directing the premiere of MUM, Yasmeen Arden is Artistic Director of caravan-based Small Truth Theatre. Most recently, she collaborated to create the Kensington Karavan, a micro-theatre festival in a retro caravan, commissioning and directing new work by Emma Dennis-Edwards, Abi Zakarian, Jessica Butcher and Sid Sagar.
Her directing credits include: award-winning The Three Sillies (Arcola Theatre/Somersault/Tour), Poking The Bear by Chris Bush, Elexion by Chloe Todd Fordham (Theatre503), Over The Hill There’s Something Better (New Diorama), Dead Yard (Playwrought/LAB), We are Beautiful (Catalyst Festival), as well as site-specific work such as On The Line (Ivy House/Merge Festival/Platform Southwark) and The Unfortunates on the streets of Watford (Watford Palace Theatre). Yasmeen is currently developing Tapestry by Chloe Todd Fordham and Christopher Hogg’s drum and bass musical Casey & Corey.
How did you come across Juliet Cowan’s play?
Juliet approached me with a very early draft over two years ago. We had met at the school gates of our local primary school where our lovely daughters brought us together. I was so honoured to read such a raw and honest play. Juliet’s writing is so original, poetic and, of course, really funny. She has brought the tangled web of living with dementia to life. So the conversation that followed came very naturally, and we soon arranged some R&D to develop the draft into the gorgeous play that it is today.
Why did you want to direct it?
I was so emotionally invested and I really fell in love with the characters, especially Mum. I am intrigued by her dilemma of existing in two worlds. Mum is the centre point and the effect her dementia has on her daughters is so vivid, as vivid as those who live in her hallucinations. There’s so much warmth and horror in this play so it’s an exciting challenge to work with.
What does Amanda Boxer bring to the title role?
Amanda is a goddess. She brings an effortless truth and sensitivity to this complex and difficult role. She is an incredibly hard worker and is always adding and finding new layers and details, bringing Mum alive like no other. Amanda is a delight to watch – audiences are in for a real treat! The whole cast are fabulous, and we have an amazing creative team. I can’t wait to share all their gorgeous work with our audiences.
What do you want audiences to take away from the play?
I suppose I want to break their hearts a little. Or to break into their hearts and to allow them a moment of connection with both the beautiful and the threatening elements of a condition that is often so unreachable.
Tell us a little about your own company Small Truth.
Small Truth is proud of its working-class roots and always seeking the extraordinary in the ordinary; searching out moments of truth that often go unseen. We have our own unique micro venue – a retro 1950s caravan theatre that seats an audience of ten – so we take exceptional theatre experiences out on the streets and make them truly welcoming and accessible to everyone… Look out for us on a street near you!
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’d like to give a special shout out to our Stage Manager India Marsland. She is the quiet backbone of this production and brings so much care, dedication and generosity to her work.
MUM runs at The Playground Theatre, Latimer Road, London W10 6RQ from 18 March to 4 April 2020 with performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7.30pm, Sundays at 5pm, matinees 25 March, 1 and 4 April at 2.30pm. Tickets are priced £10-20. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!!