The Mums and Babies Ensemble (2014 – 2015)

The Mums and Babies Ensemble was a collaboration with Duska Radosavljevic and Annie Rigby and babies James, Joakim and Nina, which consisted of a series of workshops, open dramaturgy performances and a production of instructions manual for new mums.

The Mums and Babies Ensemble workshops took place at GIFT (Gateshead International Festival of Theatre) in May 2014 and All Change Festival in October 2014 at Lyric Hammersmith Theatre in London. With the help of AHRC funding and with support of London Bubble Theatre Company we devised a performance for Sprint Festival on in March 2015 at Camden People’s Theatre.

lena james and sid by richard kenworthy

duska and joakin by richard kenworthyannie and nina by richard kenworthyphotos by Richard Kenworthy at GIFT festival, Gateshead, May 2014.

We are a group of mums using theatre and performance to build a safe, loving and reflective space for our babies (and for anyone who has ever been a baby). As women performance-makers dealing with motherhood, we explore issues associated with this predicament, including the value of female labour (at home and in the workplace), the politics of breastfeeding, and the drama of bringing forth new life. But also more personal questions of how our perception of time and life changes with this new perspective. In one workshop, parents have  (for example) articulated a memory of a day in their baby’s life and had it scripted by another participant. On another occasion, inspired by Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ Manifesto for Maintenance Art 1969!, participants were given the opportunity to frame their daily life as art and/or turn their feelings about mother(hood) into material for a manifesto. Created for audiences of up to 10 adults and accompanying babies, the workshops and performances draws on materials the makers have collected during the development period, but also have an element of spontaneity responding to the babies’ needs during the performance (feeding, changing, playing etc) – as well as incorporating audience responses and contributions. The performance has the format of a mums and babies group, but allows for a deeper artistic engagement with particular themes.

The workshops and performances are a part of a process developing a performance script – a recipe, a schedule, a something – that can be handed on to future mums and future babies.

The Mums and Babies Ensemble: A Manual can be purchased through Unbound bookstore.