This show by The Daughters Collective touts itself as ‘honest’ feminist comedy delving into the ‘beauties, horrors and complexities of mother-daughter relationships.’ Maybe so, but unless I’ve missed something, great chunks of it come across as mother-blaming and lacking in context. Just telling us about the bonds of love and loathing between mothers and daughters and expressing ambivalence about becoming mothers themselves isn’t enough to convince me that anything is being challenged here. ‘The underlying statement about intergenerational challenges’ doesn’t ring true – these young women’s mothers came of age in the seventies and were all professional women, something we do hear about later. At the end of the show the performers talk tenderly about the abiding love they have for their mothers and the pressure of their mothers’ love for them. But it doesn’t redeem a production which presents bloody tales of child-bearing, clichéd rants of terrifying pussy power, Kali-like destruction and terror of sacrificing oneself to parenting. Yes, one’s children do suck the marrow from one’s bones. But when you’re left with bare bones you learn something about your own resources, and it’s hard to imagine that these young women weren’t raised by women who had something to say themselves about the position of women in society, who hadn’t thought about their own roles as mothers of daughters, about gender disparity, about what they wanted for their girls.
Therefore I found much of this show puzzling. Much of it comes across as an exercise in expressing internalised misogyny, unintended but nevertheless undeconstructed, which creates problems. I had to force myself not to walk out during the first half. This show opens with performed caricatures of aging women. Ridiculing portrayals portraits of women obsessed with their looks, with housework, with the perfect Christmas table; 1950s stereotypes of frustration and brittleness. (Are these caricatures of the performers’ mothers? They seem more likely to be of their grandmothers.) We are being invited to laugh without compassion, without reason, at Pythonesque presentations of older women. I could understand if the performances were deconstructing the caricatures themselves. Then what happens is a whole pile of vicious body-shaming ageism. WTF? Extensive descriptions of the older female body, including repeated references to sagging breasts, is not feminism, and popping in ‘it’s beautiful’ every now and then after a description of varicose veins doesn’t soften the message. I struggle to see what this offers the listener. If the point is these young women’s collective fears of ageing, which seems to be the case, then perhaps they need to think more about self-objectification in a world which reduces the female experience to the physical – something this show spends nearly all its time doing. Then the performers strip down to their undies and clad their firm 20-something bodies in flesh coloured support garments, performing as older women reclaiming their mojo and having a sexy dance. Some people laughed. At what? At older women, is what it looks like. Nothing compared to the mother-hating venomous rants that come next, by the way.
Yes, we simultaneously love, loathe and need our mothers, theirs is the most powerful and overriding influence and as women we spend our lives undoing, disentangling and unravelling ourselves, trying to form ourselves in reaction to them (tell me your damaged mother story; I guarantee to top it), which is, presumably, what The Daughters Collectives' own mothers did. Without a context of referencing social pressures of marriage, of heteronormativity, without the implicit understanding of the conditions of patriarchy, this show doesn’t have much to say. As a 56 year old woman (and mother) I found it horrible.
The Daughters Collective
Venue: The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne VIC
Dates: 9 – 13 August 2017
Tickets: $25 – 32