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Wish You Weren't Here | Soho Theatre

Wish You Weren’t Here, which is written by Katie Redford and directed by Rob Watt, is a tale of mothers and daughters - and just how difficult and powerful that relationship can be. Set to the backdrop of Nan's recent death and the looming pressure of exam results, Mila and her mum Lorna are away on a thrilling holiday to… Scarborough!

Mila is a strong willed teenager who cringes at almost everything her mum does. Lorna is a young single mum who is trying desperately to connect to her teenage daughter, offering her a fun night out at the arcade and even a few cheeky bevs at the local Wetherspoons. Throughout the short weekend trip, we learn that Mila has brought her Nan’s ashes to be spread out here, a place the three of them used to visit all the time when Mila was younger. In the end, heart to hearts are had, arguments ensue, and truths are told about the reality of being a single mum and just what exactly Nan was like. Covering themes of motherhood, feminism, environmentalism, and racism, Mila and Lorna finally have it out, sharing truths and trying to come together despite all of the pain and disappointment.

This slice of life show is a short and sweet portrayal of a mother and daughter relationship. The staging from Bethany Wells is effective, with platforms used to represent all the different settings in Scarborough - the arcade, the hotel room, the beach. Through the use of video projections that project slightly different views of the same scenery, it feels like a lovely metaphor for the similar and yet different viewpoints these two characters have. While there were some lulls in the show during the translation periods, the music and the actors moved quickly to bring us from one scene to the next.

The bond between the mother and daughter, despite the bickering and fights, is incredibly apparent through the brilliant acting of Eleanor Henderson and Olivia Pentelow. Their relationship feels very authentic, with realistic dialogue and behaviors.

Eleanor does amazingly well at portraying Lorna as a loveable, problematic yet sympathetic character. I found myself drawn to the complexities of Lorna, and all the different conflicting feelings she has about her own life and being a young mum who struggles with motherhood and her own self confidence. Olivia plays Mila brilliantly here, from the teenager disdain, to the anger about not having a present mum. Olivia also brings such wonderful levels of authenticity to Mila’s struggles - making them hit even harder when the image of her Nan is threatened.

While the show did share some moving perspectives on motherhood, family, and self-confidence, the show feels scattered at times in its messaging. Between comments about the environment, body image, feminism and racism - all of these issues are raised but never properly addressed or resolved. In the end, the show did ultimately focus on healing or at least reconciling tumultuous family bonds. But the mentioning of other issues does detract from the message or at least leaves things feeling slightly unresolved. But perhaps that’s the way things are supposed to be. After all, have we ever felt like things are fully resolved between us and our parents?

Wish You Weren’t Here is a lovely and engaging hour of theatre that will have you in tears, making you reflect on mothers, our mothers' mothers, and ultimately how we might finally hear the words we’ve longed to hear - that we are all enough.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Chris Saunders


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