Friday 22nd February at Harrogate Theatre (Studio).
With polar opposite birth stories to tell, a pair of mums toss out the filters and share some home truths about the beauty and the brutality of birth. In Wild, Katie Villa and Laura Mugridge demand that we see women and mothers in real world terms rather than through the haze of Hollywood filters, and the show is both moving and brilliantly entertaining.
Part crafted storytelling, part whacky gameshow, part raging rejection of expectations and social norms, Wild is an hour of thoroughly engaging stories and views shared with theatrical flair. The show rests confidently on charisma and a very modern, comically blunt style of storytelling. Both Villa and Mugridge could charm a nun to sin and a sinner to confession and the quality of their rapport both with each other and their audience is excellent.
Villa’s experience takes a rockier road than Mugridge’s and while each narrative offers hilarity and brilliantly described observations from the pregnancy and birthing world, it is Villa who takes a detour to a moving and fairly harrowing reality check. It’s a story told with vulnerability and surprisingly generous honesty which is precisely what makes her story so powerful within the confines of an otherwise very playful show delivered in winning sardonic tones.
Mugridge’s narrative offers a different brand of moving moments and also contains some of the show’s best surprises. It’s difficult to experience her story without clutching at your face at least once. There’s also great sincerity in the delivery and just when it starts to feel a little whimsical with hints of clouds painted on a nursery ceiling, she throws in a sharp aside to cut through the climbing emotion and bring us back to the solid humour.
The material never strays from thoroughly engaging as it ping pongs between styles and messages and by the end of it all, there’s a sense of having spent an hour sharing horror stories and whacky anecdotes with friends. There’s a nicely complex air of fun and wisdom about the pair and frankly, I could watch Laura Mugridge lip sync and live it up for an entire show in and of itself, such is her infectious sense of fun.
No two birth stories are the same, this we know. But Katie Villa and Laura Mugridge have a message for us about the Hollywood hoax of pink hazy births or the nail biting drama surrounding pregnancies in movies: it’s bull. The truth lies within individual stories, and while there are elements of movie melodrama and magic, there is of course an awful lot more to it.
Delivered with sensitivity and a gleefully quirky and self-aware departure from the norm, Wild is a masterclass in how to take something virtually mute in the world of theatre and make it not only thoroughly entertaining but also really quite important. It’s a show of great wit, wisdom and biting social commentary.
Wild has two more stops on its tour: Bodmin (13/14 March) and Reading (27 March) – you can find tickets here. Trigger Warning: Wild ‘contains references to birth, trauma and postnatal illness.’
Katie Villa and Laura Mugridge are working with The Birth Project to create a collective display called #Stitch. Head to http://www.thebirthproject.co.uk to find out more.