Wednesday, October 20, 2021


REVIEW: Seven Ages of Mam at Theatre Royal


PAULINE O’Driscoll is just delighted to be back onstage and pounds out her entry across the floor of the Royal. She’s done everything on this production in terms of marketing, producing and co-writing the piece along with Irish Examiner journalist Mark Evans. The audience recognise her from her performance as the hospital consultant in ‘The Young Offenders’ and from numerous other productions.

The title takes its theme from Jacques’ ‘Seven Ages of Man’ speech in Shakespeare’s ‘As you like it’ where Jacques takes us through a man’s life from infancy to dotage. It’s a clever take but one that doesn’t quite match up as it seems that Pauline is stretching it a bit to find seven definitive divisions in her role as mother/ wife/ housewife et al to her family.

She’s at that ‘hello wall’ stage in her marriage with the children having flown the nest and she’s now doing the wall contemplation time as she meanders over the debris of cast aside time. “How did I end up here?” she despairs as her children now have kids of their own and mother has dropped down the contact schedule.


‘She’s had a fling that was as gloriously sexual as a tryst with an Olympic gymnast while her husband was in the Lebanon’


Seeking to live life through your children’s lives will only end in disillusionment. “Be yourself,” says Oscar Wilde, “everyone else is taken.”

It’s a stream of consciousness as she recollects the slights and injustices done to women in a previous generation. The infamous Civil Service marriage bar that forced women to leave the service on marriage is referenced although it’s not quite clear where exactly Mam worked and what specifically her role was. Strange really as people normally define themselves in terms of their role in life as in, “I’m a teacher/ carpenter/ secretary/ mechanic etc.”

It’s not the only non-sequitur in the script. A powerful and moving episode in this monologue relates to the death of a child. However, it was never clear when the death occurred, how old the child was and what actually caused the child’s death.

Pauline’s baby memories ring true with the female audience, especially. “I wanted a boy, a girl and a surprise,” she remembers, to similar acknowledgments from the largely female audience. A girl who turned out to be a tomboy until she hits the big Fourteen-O and then discovers her own sexuality and becomes as secretive as a CIA agent in Moscow. Meeting up now is a coffee date to sip on insipid lattes or a Green Goddess Smoothie where communication is limited to the barely obvious.

Her son was a reluctant scholar and parent-teacher meetings were all too sadly predictable. Now he owns his own internet company using language that makes her feel somehow inadequate.

She’s had a fling that was as gloriously sexual as a tryst with an Olympic gymnast while her husband was in the Lebanon. Sadly, it all ended in tears of self-recrimination and personal angst and a husband who, unbelievably, blames himself for leaving his wife on her own for far too long. What subsequently became of the marriage, unfortunately, remained unwritten or unspoken in a script that attempts to cover too much material.

Pauline O’Driscoll brought an energy and an enthusiasm to the oft-iterated tale of ‘Mammy the Martyr’ when the purpose and energy young children bring to a family is now replaced by the vacuum of the empty nest. In fact, the speaker’s inability to re-invent herself is, sadly, never broached.  It’s a performance that brings her audience to shared spaces and the response is warm and welcoming for an engaging storyteller.

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By Pat McEvoy, Arts Correspondent
Contact Newsdesk: 051 874951

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