“My Mum wasn’t always a twat but some time after my tenth birthday everything changed” Did Anoushka turn into an un-parentable teenage brat? Well, that might be the expected natural order of things but in this family’s reversal of parent-child roles and responsibilities, her Mum turned her whole upside down by joining a cult and running away to Canada.
Telling her (true) story on stage for the first time, following a production at London’s Royal Court last year where Patsy Ferran played her, Anoushka lays bare the pain, the anger but also the hilarity of growing up with a brainwashed ‘twat’ for a mum.
At first, it is smaller change she notices. Her Mum stops poaching eggs for breakfast or buying her birthday presents from the Argos catalogue, but when she changes her name to Dionisius and fills the office with joss sticks to make a ‘Therapy Room’, she knows it’s started to go bad. When she ups and leaves to go and start a new healing centre in Canada to follow “her calling”, Anoushka makes the heart-breaking decision to move in with her Dad and step brothers in Devon, and let her Mum go with her similarly twatish boyfriend, Moron (not his actual name).
Her heart is hurt, but it’s not all doom and gloom. So begins a series of rebellious Summers in Canada, smoking, kissing boys, driving illegally, listening to gangster rap and setting fire to the ridiculous hippy clothes her Mum buys for her and her sisters as well as half the garage roof.
The anecdotes are funny and some familiar, but beyond a photo of her beloved Labrador, there is no visual way into her unconventional family life which is a bit of a shame. Whilst creating a full teenage bedroom like the Royal Court production does not lend itself to an Edinburgh budget, it would have made the story more visually engaging and brought those nostalgic references closer to home, if there had been some relics of this colourful 80s childhood brought to the stage. I haven’t seen a troll doll in years!
Knowing where to pitch the emotional level is a challenge, when comedy and tragedy abound. The ‘Heal Thyself Centre for Self Realisation and Transcendence’ is a very real multimillion pound organisation, with a website, that has disturbingly grown in the time since her Mum left and whether or not she ever came back is not discussed. From her words it seems it is still disturbing and anger inducing to this day, but in her performance she keeps an emotional distance, her delivery like a well-rehearsed talk. The cool, calm tone of her delivery is in many ways deserving of our respect, but the emotional pitch barely wavers.
You may find yourself retrospectively less annoyed at your Mum after an hour of ‘mum behaving badly’, but this play isn’t really about her. Anoushka’s story is a triumph of teenage rebellion and resistance, a homage to carving your own trail in the face of brainwashing twats.