Review: Mother, Wife and the Complicated Life

If there are things that Mother, Wife and the Complicated Life is lacking, truth isn’t one of them – not if the hoots and hollers coming from mothers in the audience are anything to go by, anyway. The performances weren’t perfect and the words were a little cheesy, sometimes a little cheese is just what you need.

Mother, Wife and the Complicated Life. Photo supplied

Mother, Wife and the Complicated Life follows four women at different stages of life, each trying to “have it all” and to meet life’s expectations. Ambitious wanderluster, Kate, feels her plans for travel and career grind to a halt after an unplanned pregnancy, while mother of three-under-three Bec struggles to balance children, friends, romance and a desire to get back into the workforce. Jessie works tirelessly towards a perfect wedding and a perfect house, and restaurant-owner Lily is admired by her friends for her successful career, big house and perfect family but isn’t as content as everyone thinks. Over the course of a year, the women consider, commiserate, congratulate and copulate – all through song and dance, of course.

The script covers important issues and taboos, from postnatal depression to painful breastfeeding (the second of which was covered in such detail that it probably put any potential mothers in the room off for a good five years). The lyrics and book border on cliché from time to time, however, often feeling a little too predictable. The score is varied, ranging from emotive ballads to ballsy jazz numbers, and features simple-but-pleasant-sounding harmonies.

There is no real stand-out in the cast; they are a well-matched ensemble. Ex-Block contestant Amity Dry excels in the serious parts of her role as Kate, but seems to struggle to ham it up where necessary, particularly in songs such as “Breastfeeding Blues” that really need some melodrama and ballsy vocals. Dry also wrote the book, music and lyrics to Mother, Wife and the Complicated Life, and it’s obvious that she knows the content inside out. Nikki Aitken plays the worn-out Bec with a wicked sense of humour, earning the most laughs in the cast by far, and Susan Ferguson plays Lily with a subtlety that, while it doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the characters, brings a nice variety to the tone of the show. Rachel McCall’s melodic soprano is a fortunate addition to the group, as she often seems to carry the harmonies, and her sassy, self-righteous Jessie is spot on.

The set in Mother, Wife and the Complicated Life is excellent – both realistic and easily customised to represent different locations, with an obvious attention to detail. Although the lights built into the walls of the set were a little garish at the beginning of the show, they tone down as the show goes on.

Mother, Wife and the Complicated Life isn’t perfect, but it’s fun, and speaks to the issues faced by mothers, wives and women all around the country. If the nation’s mothers can wrangle a babysitter, the show is definitely worth a night out; it’s better than watching Frozen for the fifteenth time in one day, anyway.

Paige Mulholland

Paige Mulholland is an Adelaide based writer, reviewer and perpetual volunteer for all things artsy in Adelaide. She has a double degree in International Relations and Journalism, and and writes for Adelaide Theatre Guide and ArtsHub as well as In her spare time, she takes classes in dance, voice and theatre, and sometimes has deep philosophical discussions with her cats.

Paige Mulholland

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