Review: Heartbreaking scenes of young mothers forced to give up their newborns played out beautifully by young cast

The Burnley Garrick theatre group continue an interesting season this week, with ‘Be My Baby’ by Amanda Whittington.
The cast of Be My Baby by Burnley Garrick Theatre group on stage at Burnley Youth Theatre (photo by Colin Antill)The cast of Be My Baby by Burnley Garrick Theatre group on stage at Burnley Youth Theatre (photo by Colin Antill)
The cast of Be My Baby by Burnley Garrick Theatre group on stage at Burnley Youth Theatre (photo by Colin Antill)

This production is directed by Alan Hargreaves, who remembers the period in which the play is set, 1964, and with 'some confidence has been able to advise on the culture and attitudes prevalent at that time.'

The story is a simple one: finding themselves with child, each young woman has been sent to St Saviours, a Church of England mother and baby home.

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As profoundly explored in ‘The Foundling’ by Stacey Halls, the traumatic decision to give up one’s baby is nothing new: set in 1754, the young mothers - having no way of raising them and frightened of bonding with them - had to leave their babies behind with no knowledge of what would happen to them. It is this restrained grief and anticipation of loss that is so palpable in both Halls’ book and in Whittington’s play.

“I can feel it moving and I’m scared, you see? I’m scared I’m going to love it.” (Mary) The sentiments are heart-breaking as Whittington’s young characters have to be prepared and willing to say goodbye to their new-borns, such was the shame of young motherhood. Each actress plays their part extraordinarily well. We believe their plight and we feel their fears.

The well-chosen cast is predominantly a young one: Cathryn Osborne (Queenie), expertly plays a recalcitrant rebel with confidence; Charis Deighton (Norma) depicts her tragic character beautifully – drawing out the audience’s sympathy and affection - both actresses have played these roles before and shine even more brightly.

Holly Boland (replacing Maisie Lever) having played this role recently, takes on the part of Mary at 72 hours’ notice and performs with a quiet, confident assuredness; both she and Rachel Bailey (Dolores) deliver considered, warm performances that stir one’s emotions.

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The forbidding ‘Holy Cow’ (Matron of St Saviours) is wonderfully created by Leanne Warf, and equally, Lauren Stirzaker-Jackson gives a smooth, convincing performance as Mary’s mother, Mrs Adams.

The production is delightfully peppered with music of the era and sometimes, joyously sung by the four young actors on stage. Staging is clever, using a washing line to divide sets across the stage left to stage right, a device I have seen used before in a production of this play and indeed, could have been scripted; it worked very well.

Lighting and sound by David Hughes, Barbara Bailey and Tom Whittaker beautifully complemented the play.

Sound design was by Richard I’Anson.

The play runs until this Saturday, February 19th at Burnley Youth Theatre. Tickets can be obtained by

texting 07788 554939 or emailing [email protected]