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Healing through humour

DRAMA: (Left to right) Cast members Leah Chillery, Natalya Brown and Rachael Young

THERE ARE many women who face issues such as postnatal depression or worry about whether or not they are good mothers. However, those who face these problems don’t always find it easy to talk about what they are going through.

But three women from Nottingham have found that one effective way to get these issues out into the open is through comedy and drama. Leah Chillery, Rachael Young and Natalya Brown, from First Floor Theatre Company in Nottingham, wrote the play Mummy Mafia, which combines bashment dancing with a plot that raises questions about parenting styles, racial identity, social exclusion and postnatal depression.

It was originally written as a piece for Nottingham Playhouse last year, when its director Bea Udeh contacted them to work on a project.

But the idea for Mummy Mafia soon emerged.

The show developed into a full theatrical production thanks to funding from Arts Council England.
The production has been met with critical acclaim, and the trio are currently touring with it.

Writer Chillery, whose work has featured in BBC shows such as My Family, EastEnders, and Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, said the play was based on her experience of parenting and postnatal depression.

“I suffered from it for some time and I remember going to see other mothers and they seemed to be coping fine,” she told The Voice. “They had a bit of baby blues but they weren’t feeling as unhappy as I was. I don’t think enough people are aware of it as an illness. I think some people, especially men, don’t understand it and think it’s just a made up illness.

“You’re expected to just get on with it, and you feel like you’re not coping if you tell anyone. I didn’t even tell my mum how I felt. It’s something you just keep to yourself because you are ashamed.”

ISSUES

Chillery said she likes to use comedy to address serious issues when she writes because that is how real people behave.

“Often we do laugh in life even through the crises because if you don’t you will cry. I find a show more engaging if it makes me laugh. I think because the laughter is so strong, when it turns to a serious moment it makes it that much more dark because you’ve been on such a high. We hope the audience will think about themselves and how judgemental they can be to one another.”

The idea for the play’s title came from online forum Mumsnet, where she is an active contributor.
Members of the parenting website often refer to mums who have strict rules on parenting as the ‘Mummy Mafia’.

The trio are now hoping to adapt the play into a sitcom. Beth Murphy, head of information at mental health charity Mind, agreed that exploring the illness through the arts can be a useful way to reach women who needed to talk.

She said: “It is really important that information about postnatal depression is made widely accessible to all, especially pregnant women and their partners.”

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