Brooke Vincent makes her professional stage debut in Be My Baby, currently touring the UK with stops in Chesterfield and Bury St Edmund. The Coronation Street star is on home soil this week as the production sets up base at Salford’s Lowry Theatre, where it runs until 8th October.
Brooke has chosen well for her first major dabble into theatre, taking on one of the lead roles in Amanda Whittington’s play about teen pregnancy in the 60s. The period tale is a bitter sweet story of four young girls who form a bond after they are sent away in ‘shame’ to a convent for unmarried mums. Each from different backgrounds they hide away from society’s disapproving eyes until they give birth and return home, without their babies. As the play unfolds the audience laugh and cry along with Mary (Jess Cummings), Queenie (Brooke Vincent), Norma (Josie Cersie) and Dolores (Eva McKenna), as they share their stories with each other, keeping up their spirits and confessing sometimes shocking secrets.
The four actresses are all superb; Jess puts in a credible performance as well-educated Mary who wants to break out from the convent and survive as a single mum, Brooke oozes sass as ‘leader of the pack’ Queenie showing the girls the ropes and delivering some acidic one liners, Josie gives a heart-breaking performance as fragile Norma struggling to cope at giving her child away and Eva displays some great comic timing as she plays ditzy Dolores.
Hi-Di-Hi star Ruth Madoc has also found a well suited role as the stoic ‘Matron’ of the convent. The 80s sitcom star manages to make the audience see the two sides of her character as she wrestles between her duty to make the girls do ‘the right thing’ and her sympathy towards the pain they are going through.
With scenes interlaced with well-known songs from the female icons of the sixties, such as The Ronettes and Dusty Springfield, Be My Baby has a nostalgic feel about it and at times you could imagine it being turned into a TV series, in the vein of Heartbeat or Call the Midwife. From the young teens in the audience to those who had grown up in the 60s the play manages to engage on all levels as they connect with the action onstage. There’s some great moments to watch out for as the pregnant young girls try to forget their predicament by singing along to Dusty tracks in the laundry room and some shocking revelations in act two.
Not often does a play come around written for an all-female cast ( Charlotte Keatley’s My Mother Said I Should being one of them, along with Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls) so Be My Baby is a refreshing treat. It is also a harsh reminder of what the stigma was like to be an unmarried mum to be in the sixties and the unthinkable agony that many women went through went they were forced to give their babies up for adoption.
4-8th October The Lowry, Salford Quays, www.thelowry.com/drama