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Things Beginning with M- Omidaze Productions , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , October 19, 2012
The Best of Touring Theatre by Things Beginning with M- Omidaze Productions Sisters, daughters, mothers, friends, these are women's life roles and Emily Steel's script takes the three women performers from early experience- “I was terrified of turning into my mother”- to maturity. There is truth in Lyn Hunter’s last part. The happiest decade, according to surveys, is that of the seventy-year olds. Their contentedness is all to do, as depicted here, with the pleasure in the things around you, the acceptance of who you are.

The flier for “Things Beginning with M” lists two-dozen words that indeed begin with “m”. The list covers almost everything of significance in life’s cycle. An early sequence involves a map, its origin and the word’s derivation. From the audience strides MC-Comedian Taylor Glenn with “I’m no Angela Lansbury but I smell a metaphor.”

Taylor Glenn’s inclusion is a clever piece of theatre-making. She not only gives the other performers a breathing space but she brings in pace, variety and structure. She is funny and knowing. The scene that enacts the passage from girlhood to womanhood has the men in the audience shuddering. Taylor Glenn reassures them- they are already a ten percent minority in Aberystwyth’s exposed studio space- that they may relax. The show is not going to include audience participation.

“Things Beginning with M” does not do metaphor. It does sharp observation. The script throws in a few lines on wage rates and government representation, a good riposte to Hanna Rosin’s recent report in book form. It contains a few up to the minute references, like the atrocity in the Swat Valley last week, but the show’s focus is the experience of life’s core moments.

Catriona James beautifully expresses the hammer blow that is the implosion of a marriage with too little to sustain itself- movement director is Sarah Hall. Jessica Hayles, new from RWCMD, performs some comedic gymnastics when faced with puberty’s challenge. Lynn Hunter recounts the dispiriting experience of fertility treatment, as well as the joy in a last resolution.

One teenager discovers that the humdrum bathroom shower has an unexpected versatility to it. The dating period includes spiked drinks and males of some viciousness. Taylor Glenn flees the US to escape “Awkward Music Man.” She encounters the same type in London with his ghastly serenades from the Elton John catalogue. When it comes to pregnancy the “Hello-OK” version is all rosy complexion and that first fuzzy ultrasound image. The corrective Omidaze version also includes trapped wind and haemorrhoids the size of Brazil nuts. The first act closes with a moving narration of young promise laid waste by anorexia and narcotics.

“M” also stands for mental health and the ocean of tranquillisers and serotonin-uplifters that is our twenty-first century lot. “Things Beginning with M” is graphic and frank, funny and sad. The source may be the tales of women but they are tales for all humanity.

Producer-director Yvonne Murphy’s production has had a gestation over several years. The credits are numerous, Phil Mackenzie, Michael Kelligan and Louise Osborn among many. Omidaze company members include visual artists Cath Rive and Katie Rigby, Angela Thompson and Beth House. “Things Beginning with M” continues to Swansea’s Arts Wing, Narberth’s Queen’s Hall and Chapter. The tour ends 4th-5th November at London’s Arcola Tent.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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