STAGE REVIEW: My Mother Said I Never Should - at the Festival Theatre, Malvern, from Tuesday, November 13 to Saturday, November 17, 2018.

THERE’S that old expression - ‘Now’t so queer as folk’ - and the point of this old northern saying is pretty evident in this far from unique tale about ‘four’ generations of one family.

There’s nothing really different about this family to many others over the past century as they are in many respects quite ordinary, the typical family you would have found up and down the country. Many coping with a similar quality of life and dealing with the trials and tribulations of the daily grind whether they lived in Manchester or Market Harborough.

But while this tale sets out to invoke thoughts about the everyday lives of ordinary folk it also induces the merits, or otherwise, of how women have moved on over the years, throwing off the shackles of many of the family duties that so restrained their parents.

Charlotte Keatley’s 1987 drama draws heavily on what happened behind the lace curtains of numerous homes in the earlier and mid-years of the 20th century.

Carole Dance, Felicity Houlbrooke, Kathryn Ritchie and Connie Walker beautifully take us back and forth over the four generations, who for quite a time are forced to pretend to be three generations due to an unexpected 'arrival'.

All four of the excellent cast quartet play different aged versions of themselves, back and forth from positivity and with a hint of precociousness to an air of resignation.

Kathryn Ritchie's Jackie provides a rich mix, torn between old values but eager to grasp the opportunities change is bringing, while Carole Dance is pretty near perfect as dependable Doris, the oldest member of the family.

Charlotte Keatley’s play is the most widely performed play ever written by a woman and has been translated or produced in 31 countries in its 30 year history.

Michael Cabot’s production is, in general, quite charming, but the setting - which initially threw me. A prisoner of war camp with its fencing and coiled barbed wire or it could easily have been the Steptoe’s junkyard. Totally lost on me!?

And something else that never sits comfortably is seeing and hearing adults playing children’s parts. It grates, although it can occasionally work.

A shortish first set, lasting just 45 minutes, knocked some of the momentum out of the production, but following the interval there’s enough going on, and at a fair pace, to make up for this.

Many audiences will easily recognise what Keatley has set out to achieve. It’s natural, has warmth and some wit, and makes us all realise how women have managed to alter and improve their role and their standing in everyday home life and the workplace.

Watchable and with the capacity to evoke both deep thoughts and emotions.