The Royal Court’s new play lives up to its bold title. Written by debut playwright Anoushka Warden, it’s a one-woman show recalling what happened when her mum went “batshit crazy” and joined a cult.
Patsy Ferran plays the adolescent narrator who loves David Jason, trolls and the rapper Tupac. She detests her mum’s boyfriend, who she nicknames Moron, and the self-professed spiritual guru who runs The Heal Thyself Centre for Self-Realisation and Transcendence in a village in Somerset.
At first the Centre’s influence on her mother is comically insidious. She leaves the house unlocked and it gets burgled; she attempts to heal her daughter’s scars by waving her hands around.
But when her mother moves to Canada to set up a sister spiritual centre, the true extent of her indoctrination becomes painfully clear. Meanwhile, her teenage daughter discovers boys, “Mike’s hard lemonade” and drugs. “In life you are either inherently naughty or not,” she says early on. “I definitely was.”
It’s an astonishing story, especially when you realise it’s loosely autobiographical, or as the Royal Court puts it: “an unreliable version of a true story filtered through a hazy memory and vivid imagination”. The theatre’s informal upstairs auditorium is perfect for monologues, and directors Vicky Featherstone and Jude Christian have half the audience sitting on beanbags.
75 minutes is a long time for a one-person show with no scene changes, but Ferran never flags for a second. She bounces around the stage in a Zig and Zag sweater, every inch the self-righteous adolescent ricocheting between indignation and petulance, and occasionally breaking out into her beloved gangsta rap. Her punchy monologue is soundtracked by 90s pop and rap classics.
Warden’s script is uncensored and very funny, but there are also heartbreaking moments when the teenager admits how hurt she is by her mother’s neglect.
It’s an extraordinary performance of an extraordinary debut play.
My Mum’s a T**t is at the Royal Court until 20 January