A new and lively family moved into my building recently. When they’re not making me jump or grumble to my flatmate, the creeks, bangs and bumps from above have me imagining the little world unfolding one floor up. With their new audio theatre project, Play Inside: Other Mothers, Splash and Ripple work to quench such curiosities of other domestic life, while deepening compassion for underrepresented communities.
A podcast created entirely by a diverse creative team of women and minority genders, Other Mothers guides the body and mind through four fictional stories, all offering unique and valuable perspectives on motherhood. With gentle instructions written smoothly into the script, the company develops an enchantingly tender form of active listening, where we’re invited to climb inside the bodies and self-talk of each character.
This special sense of dramatic intimacy is most visceral is Meesh’s journey (played by Lynsey Murrell and written by Michelle Roche), where we’re guided through the hopes, nerves and contemplations of a person awaiting the results of IVF treatment. Under her gently anxious guidance, we rub our stomachs, write a to-do list, and even go to the toilet together, all until I’m so invested in her (our?) journey that I feel her life and worries beating under my very own skin.
Most of the voices reserve a soft sense of humour, easing the listener into a carefully and colourfully interpersonal experience of storytelling. Zoe’s (played by Elexi Walker and written by Rosie Poebright) is the only story that loses this a little, as the time it sometimes takes to follow their more indulgently poetic vocabulary engulfs the simplistic instructions for movement, and might be appreciated more on the page. It’s a complex and important story of identity realisation, so deserves to be totally followed and understood.
Alexis Adimora’s music and sound design retains a vital sense of theatricality in the work, when either painting a more immersive picture of the characters’ environments, or illustrating intense feeling in a more sensory way. The deep, pulsating sound effect used to elucidate Shan’s adenomyosis cramps is an especially potent example of the latter, flooding the listener’s ears with a totally saturated meditation on the pain as we embrace our bellies in sympathy.
Experienced as an omnibus, the stories do, unfortunately, try to narratively grate up against one another. Taken to my kitchen on three different occasions by three of the different voices, the separate situations and stories start to unintentionally relate to one another as I’m thinking about the last time I was here. Whilst this does try to tie the different fictional environments nicely together with my own, I can’t help but wish I’d listened to each voice with a little time to reset in-between, so that each could have my full and refreshed focus.
Despite this, by taking us to a mirror by the end, Shan’s story (played by Carol Walton and written by Kat Francois), brings the series to a kind and tactical end. Gifting us with her own positive self-talk as we confront our reflection, Shan roots us back into our own bodies, inviting us to confront our own complex identities and how we might even begin to reach out further into our communities.
Warmly dropped into the familiarity of our own homes and bodies, Other Mothers is an enriching and accessible way to peek into the diverse scope of other people’s lives at a time we are so enwrapped in our own. No matter the listener’s age, gender or background, to embody a sense of difference is a valuable invitation to step outside whilst also reflecting in.
Play Inside: Other Mothers streams online from the 18th November. For more information, see Splash and Ripple’s website.