Muvvahood sucks you in. Just as you think your emotions will end up shattered on the floor, the hope of single motherhood shines through.
“When he laughs, the world feels right.”
Muvvahood was researched and written by Libby Liburd over the course of a year. As a performer Libby has a rare skill; you can hear the collective gasps reverberating around the theatre as she draws you in so completely that you are no longer watching from the sidelines, but living the moment through the eyes of these women.
“Just ignore the screams,” the warden at the hostel said.
It’s a world that almost two million single mothers inhabit in the UK alone, yet so very few of us ever talk about these experiences. The emotional rollercoaster that Muvvahood takes you on is not only a piece of art, it is a political masterpiece. As you hear the stories of six different single mothers, you are given a flavour of the repercussions of Tory government policies from the 80s right through to the present day.
“The guilt, I’m never enough. I’m so tired my innards ache.”
The story of Libby and her son are at the heart of the performance. The voice of Libby’s own son describes what makes his mum, his mum. It’s the mundane things – her in the morning; it’s the teenage directness – her smelly breath. The love you hear in the voice, his voice, is impenetrable. The soft gentle way he describes things, how he jokes with her about his own birth. You can hear the love because it’s real. And that’s what makes Muvvahood so unique and moving. Every single word you hear is real. At moments it is funny – at other times dark – but at every point it is real and that is what makes it so unique and reaffirming for single mothers everywhere.
Single mothers are vilified as the scourge on our society. This play shows in no uncertain terms that the real scourge is that we allow these women – us women – and their children – our children – to experience such hardships. Judges, politicians, teachers, neighbours – you name it – the vilification comes from all walks of life – just as single mothers do.
Children of single mothers face the vilification too, “they become criminals, malnourished, fail at school, go to prison…”
This is not just an emotive piece – the statistics and facts which back up these and many other single mothers stories’, are shocking. Take the 124,000 single mothers forced from income support to job seekers allowance in 2012 with only eight weeks notice. The government estimated this policy would have a mere 20% success rate; ultimately it resulted in increased foodbank usage and evictions. Then there’s the renewed benefit cap coming in on 7th November; a single mum with one child, or more, living in an average two-bed flat in London, E17 (where Libby hails from) will now have £39 a week to live off after rent, council tax, gas and electric. £39 a week. That must cover food, clothes, school trips, travel and the rest. This policy change alone will see one quarter of a million children at risk of homelessness just before Christmas.
“That level of poverty is embarrassing. I wasn’t on benefits. I was working. I couldn’t talk about it – old people can get sympathy, but single mums are vilified.”
By 2020 it is estimated that the most impoverished group of people in the UK will be the working single mother and her children. Muvvahood gives a voice to single mothers – their own voice – to take you on a journey with them. This performance didn’t just give a voice to the six single mothers featured, it gave all single mothers a voice and I for one am grateful.
FYI: Libby kindly gave me a free ticket to attend the show and I later decided I’d like to write about it. All views are my own. Quotes are from the show.