To tackle the issue of migration is to tread on sensitive and potentially dangerous ground. Compassion for refugees forced out of their home is not always equally conferred on economic migrants seeking a better life. Three Mothers succeeds in handling this by making us remember that behind all of these people exists a loving family – a devoted mother in particular
Khady (Claire Perkins) is an entrepreneurial market trader in Senegal, keen for her family to have the best and to access some foreign income like the wealthier elements in her village. With one of her daughters ill she sends her teenage son off to Europe to find work. Has she done the right thing? She hears nothing from him and is plagued by news reports of hundreds drowning off the coast of Italy. Running counter to this is the story of Gisela (Roberta Kerr) who, after 40 years living in England, returns to her native Bavaria despite having no family still there. Her loneliness and long-lasting grief for a lost son draws her to the migrants that have been settling in her village, and in particular a young African man in an orange gilet.
The third mother Erika (Victoria Brazier) is, at first sight, Gisela’s, whose story is told mainly in 1945 as she flees the Sudetenland. She is an ethnic German and, although having never lived in Germany, is forced to walk across Europe with thousands of others, forlornly trying to find a nation that will take her and her babe-in–arms. Via these three mothers we learn what it is to be a migrant, for whatever reason, and how little has changed to accommodate them. Much more we learn what it is to be a mother and to lose a child, or fear that you have done. Within all of this there exists the other constraints of motherhood and of pride. When Khady tries to pretend that her son is sending her money, by spending all of her savings on new stock for her stall we are uncomfortable that she has not used the money for a doctor for her daughter.
Subject matter like this could be portrayed in a very dark and depressing manner, but Matilda Velevitch’s writing manages to incorporate humour and ultimately hope into a narrative that never fails to grip. Director Janys Chambers’ background in soaps means that the three narratives are effectively delivered in regular bite sized portions that maintain the tension perfectly, creating an empathy with the refugees and the families they leave behind. The performances are all beautifully observed, with Claire Perkins particularly adept in finding a kind of an inner Mma Ramotswe.
Three Mothers runs until November 12th and is to be highly recommended for both mothers and their children alike.