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Unconditional

My mum and I are making a show. Mothers, daughters, love and LIMITS. Is this ‘bond’ unbreakable?
Burton Taylor Studio, Tues 18th and Weds 19th September 2018

September 18, 2018
Unconditionally great

"So, it's a story about..." Actually, it doesn’t matter what the story is about. What it’s really about is the delightful characters, whimsical scenes and joyful delivery. What it’s really about is that I came in feeling stressed and left with saunter and a smile.

Though there clearly is narrative, Unconditional is at its heart a character piece. Mother and daughter journey to put on a play, meeting or imagining a host of characters and unlikely scenes on the way.

The play is very comfortable in itself. It doesn’t try hard to make a point, or to teach the audience a lesson, or be ever so meaningful. What you get instead is high quality, lighthearted good humour. Neither vapid nor silly, Unconditional is simply good at what it does.

Also clearly good at what they do were Josie Dale-Jones and Stefanie Mueller, playing (and being) daughter and mother respectively. The first thing you notice is the warmth and rapport between the two; I enjoyed spending time in their company because they clearly enjoyed being with each other too. Perhaps more impressive still was Dale-Jones and Mueller’s ability to conjure up a cast of different and delightful characters into their story. Each was distinct and delightful in their own way, and they all interacted with each other just you would hope they would.

Equally impressive was that somehow Unconditional managed to build into a crescendo, getting progressively funnier and sillier, while never feeling too heavy or overplaying its hand. It must have something to do with the pacing, dialogue and interaction, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. All I know is that when I wasn’t laughing I was smiling, and that towards the end I found myself chuckling away while leaning forward in the seat.

An hour after coming into the studio in a dark mood I left sauntering back to my car with a big old smile on my face. It was silly, it was funny and it was undeniably a good show.


June 27, 2017
Mother-daughter dream team (part of Offbeat, 25th June 2017)

Would you want to create a piece of theatre with your mother/daughter? ThisEgg's Josie Dale-Jones has teamed up with her mother Stefanie Mueller (co-founder of Hoipolloi) to create Unconditional, an unconventional production exploring the complex bond between mothers and their daughters.

Upon entering the BT Studio, we were greeted by the mother-daughter duo smiling like marionettes and making eye contact with every member of the audience. The performance opened by showing footage from Life Story of the barnacle geese making the terrifying jump off the cliffs to the grassy scree slope below to be reunited with their parents. It was certainly entertaining to watch this clip again as part of an audience as gasps and whispered cries of "noooo" peppered the soundtrack. As the audience began to question how the footage was linked to Stefanie and Josie's relationship, Josie slapped her mother across the face.

The duo quickly explained that in the devising of this show, they had purposefully not created a story as they didn't want to limit the direction of the piece to one narrative. In its place, the audience is presented with a series of skits exploring different aspects of the mother-daughter relationship. The performers did well to avoid a gimmicky interpretation of the sometimes overly dramatised relationship (that famous Kat and Zoe proclamation from Eastenders comes to mind…). Instead, their awareness of the preconceptions about mother-daughter relationships meant that this duo approached the theme intelligently, and with much wit and subversion.

Some moments were laugh out loud brilliant – Josie's recollection of her birth was fantastically over the top (as was Stefanie's reaction to Josie's slightly grazed knee) and in another scene, Stefanie's line "I didn't think it would become personal" was perfectly timed. Other skits were touching and genuinely moving. The phone conversation between Josie and Stefanie where everything for Josie was "fine" really struck a chord, reminding me of those calls I had with my own mum while I was away at university. Josie's furious shouting of statistics about young adults still living at home with their parents accompanied by Rage Against The Machine's 'Killing in the Name' was a great expression of the frustrations felt by many millennials at the state of the housing market. These snapshots found the humour and vulnerabilities in the characters and thoughtfully exposed them.

The blur between fiction and reality was done really well; a tongue-in-cheek radio interview between Josie as the daughter and Stefanie as the host created more confusion by suggesting that the duo were in fact not even related, making audience members question friends of the actors after the show to confirm their biological relationship! Although this was their first performance, the show was polished (with the exception of a rogue microphone stand!) and the acting was excellent. The use of sound and lighting was spot on, and even though the show was a slim 35 minutes instead of the advertised 50 minutes, the audience certainly got their money's worth. This multifaceted interpretation of a parent and their child is sure to pull at your heart strings whilst tickling your funny bones – make sure to take your mum along!

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