Brighton Fringe Review: WHOA MAMA!, Spiegeltent, Bosco Theatre

You'll go for the banter…but you’ll stay for the heart

By: May. 09, 2024
Brighton Fringe Review: WHOA MAMA!, Spiegeltent, Bosco Theatre
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Brighton Fringe Review: WHOA MAMA!, Spiegeltent, Bosco Theatre "To breed, or not to breed - THAT is the question!”

The strapline for Stephanie Ware’s WHOA MAMA! had me intrigued – a one woman comedy about a 40-something woman and her choice to remain childfree. There’s certainly no shortage of rhetoric on this subject, particularly on social media where the childfree “movement” has a real chokehold. But the concept of a clownish comedy that explores the “opinions, arguments and science” behind this choice felt like a fresh take.

WHOA MAMA! took a while to get into a rhythm that gelled with the audience. In part, this is likely due to the technical problems that Ware had to battle through – but then, isn’t that part of the charm of the Fringe? These issues did create some frenetic moments where I struggled to grasp the intended structure of the show. But Ware’s unwavering commitment to the comedy meant that she was able to spin this into something that actually started to feel like a special experience where we became part of the creation of the piece.

Ware plays herself - an actor that is compelled to share her message about what it means to choose to be child free. She decides to communicate this by adopting a variety of personas - from a Regency ingenue to courtroom judge and more, Ware forces us to dissect patriarchal norms and feminist theory through many different lenses, and then we witness her response to them.

Utilising a suitcase of simple comedy props to turn herself into these characters, it’s Ware’s physical comedy that creates the real transformation. Some of the biggest laughs came from the smallest and most nuanced of movements, and its this physicality that is the star of the show.

Brighton Fringe Review: WHOA MAMA!, Spiegeltent, Bosco Theatre

Crucially though, this is not just clowning around– it’s a well-rounded commentary on gendered politics, highlighting the brutality of being a woman, the challenges of facing our depleting fertility and the strength it takes to decide to be child free…even if deep down, it isn’t a choice at all. After 55 minutes of laughs, I was surprised to find myself in an entirely different emotional space, with a couple of tears rolling down my cheeks in the final 5 minutes. The gut-wrenching kind that makes you want to schedule an emergency appointment with your therapist.

Anyone that can make me feel that deeply, that quickly, whilst wearing a hat shaped like a vulva is a winner in my eyes. This piece is a tenner well spent - you might go for the banter…but you’ll stay for the heart.

WHOA MAMA! is performing at the Bosco Theatre, Spiegeltent, Brighton on 21 and 28 May. 

Photo credit: Caroline Cronin


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