A Bedtime Story For My Mummy – 27 January 2020, Theatre Workshop, Sheffield

Review my Melanie Hopkins.

“As soon as I heard of Alice Connolly’s plans for a devised, solo theatre piece revolving around bedtime stories, Barbie and other beautiful dolls introduced at childhood, I was immediately gripped by the idea and curious to see where it would lead.

We entered into the theatre at Drama Workshop and was greeted by a pre-set of Alice on stage, innocently playing with the dolls she had laid in front of her. She picked up each one, inspected and interacted with them and seemed content with their animation. It seemed almost like a sweet memory of her early childhood, a much simpler time.

She then asked her mummy to read her a few bedtime stories revolving around a young girl and her romantic endeavours with a young boy, how the young girl perceived herself when she looked in the mirror and saw plastic perfection, and of course how dolls are a girl’s best friend. This was really interesting as all the stories revolved around themes of manipulation and artificial experiences, which were explored by Alice when she repeated the actions of the stories with her dolls, revealing elements of sexual coercion/assault, issues of self esteem and body dysmorphia, loneliness and deceit.

Alice balanced hard-hitting drama and exaggerated comedy well, especially so when lip-syncing to “Barbie Girl” by Aqua, a fitting song for the whole experience. She confidently danced around the stage prancing to the music, highlighting the illusion of beauty and perceived “womanhood” in the media. But when finding a mirror, showing the true reflection of a woman, she hid like a child and refused to come to terms with her reality. This is such an important and modern issue of today’s beauty standards, too many people are not happy with what they see in the mirror and are widely influenced by the media’s unattainable “perfect” imagery of the human body. Like Alice showed us, it is easier to live in a dream world than face life’s harsh realities a young woman can be subject to.

A particular part of the show that I admired was her spoken word rendition of Aqua’s lyrics in manners of a overtly sexual and pornographic character, but switching immediately to a pure and pristine young child. It reminded me of Babyface, a production which addressed themes of paedophilia in our online sexual culture.

Alice featured her handmade fabric dolls, one depicting a young child, another an adult woman with public hair, large breasts and bottom and a final doll of a seemingly elderly woman with large limbs and grey hair. This was a stunningly-visual point that the “polished” look will not last and we cannot physically look like that forever. She asked audience members; “Which dolls will I give to my child?”, pointing to her realistic, beautiful, handmade dolls or the plastic-fantastic dolls that cause us so much suffering for unachievable beauty.

Another poignant part of the show was when Alice’s image projected on the black curtains with a dummy in her mouth, clutching her ‘child’ handmade doll and moving like clockwork to upbeat and light music, while Alice herself was using the floor space to depict a dance scene of sexual assault. This imagery was so powerful, especially with the projection looking down on her as if it were the eyes of God, or more accurately her inner child. At this point, Alice had revealed handmade breast and bottom undergarments which told us of her forced manipulation for the ideals of womanly excellence. She later, in an act of rebel, rejected this ideal and pulled out the fluff from her breasts to show she was not anyone’s doll.

A very layered and textured performance, with highlights of intense drama and heightened comedy. The emotional depth of her character was something to be admired and she certainly bore her soul on that stage, which everyone was equally fascinated and grateful for the experience.

I believe you can catch this again at the Theatre Deli’s Scratch Night in April. Keep an eye out for it, you won’t want to miss it!”

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