Holy Mothers

Previewed 27 May 1999, Opened 1 June 1999, Closed 3 July 1999 at the Ambassadors Theatre in London - performed early evenings

The British Premiere of Werner Schwab's comedy Holy Mothers, in a translation by Meredith Oakes

Holy Mothers takes an ourrageous and mischievous look at the life and loves of three aging women. Already hailed as a stroke of genius in Germany, Holy Mothers brims with irreverent humour and mind-blowing fantasies.

The cast features Paola Dionisotti as 'Grete', Linda Dobell as 'Mariedl' and Valerie Lilley as 'Erna'. Directed by Richard Jones with designs by Steward Laing and lighting by Pat Collins. This production opens here following an acclaimed staged reading at the Royal Court Theatre as part of the New European Writing Season in November and December 1997.

"There are people with mouths like sewers, and then there is Linda Dobell's Mariedl, who gives new meaning to the cliche with her endless descriptions of joyously unblocking loos. She is the most hilariously odd of the three Ortonesque biddies in Holy Mothers, but Paola Dionisotti's Grete, with her awful dog and rough sexual fantasies, and Valerie Lilley's Erna, who dreams of escaping from her alcoholic son into the arms of a Polish butcher called Karl Wottila, run her close. Since there is a picture of the Pope on the wall, and lots of Catholic references, it is pretty clear whom Wottila represents. Indeed, Schwab's point is, I suspect, that our animal functions and drives, not our spiritual aspirations, define us even on the brink of the grave. Whatever the truth, the thrust of Richard Jones's production is unmissable." The Times

"This is a long disquisition by three women on poo as in excrement, number twos, shit. Actually, it's a talented piece: funny in its surreal conjunction of pursed lips and foul mouths, and skilfully executed. But it's too long. What should be a sketch is a play, which makes for a top-heavy evening - but an invigorating one." The Observer

"The 'Holy Mothers' of the title are three good Catholic Austrian women who, during the course of the evening, reveal their sad and sordid fantasies. Its highly parodic style makes it a distant relative of phenomena such as The Young Ones and Absolutely Fabulous; the content, however, can't keep pace... It is certainly bizarre. But although the play's sad and bitterly black portrayal of human alienation comes over, the comedy soon stales. One suspects it is supposed to be uproariously funny and outrageously provocative - in fact, it isn't either. Unless you are exceptionally keen on toilet humour, or find it particularly shocking, there is a very real danger of mounting boredom. The three splendid actresses in Richard Jones's production do their best to keep up the momentum... Stewart Laing's design is wonderfully awful too, the stridently coloured kitchen setting off the view from the window of grey high-rises and pylons. But despite all this and despite Jones's attention to the surreal quality of the play, it languishes and finally drowns in its own self-conscious desire to shock." Financial Times

Holy Mothers in London at the Ambassadors Theatre previewed from 27 May 1999, opened on 1 June 1999 and closed on 3 July 1999