'The Good Enough Mums Club': Nappy days are here again

Emily Beecher tells Charlotte Philby how her postnatal crisis became a musical

The director clears her throat before addressing the cast: "OK, can we go from the magic out-of-my-fanny-conjuring bit...?" Anyone who chanced upon afternoon rehearsals in a room above a Lambeth pub this week, might have wondered what they'd stumbled into. This was not, however, practice for a Bangkok strip show but the finishing touches to a masterful new musical exploring the pressures, anxieties and downright absurdities of modern motherhood.

The Good Enough Mums Club tells the stories of five women from various walks of life who meet at a mother and toddler group. "As happens when you join one of these groups, they're thrown together with people they essentially have nothing in common with other than the fact that they all have small children," explains Helen Eastman, director of the show, who is eight weeks away from giving birth to her second child. But soon their stories are inextricable from one another, with the show following these five women as they change and grow and deal with their own situations, which range from post-natal depression to struggling with an ill child.

At the centre of it all, adds Eastman, "It is a journey of solidarity: it's about how you those friendships with people you think you don't have anything in common become your support structures."

Heartwarming, funny and deeply honest in a way that no mother could fail to appreciate, The Good Enough Mums Club captures the frustration, isolation and occasional joy of early motherhood in a frank and totally relatable story featuring the relentless humble-bragger friend, fruitless visits to the GP in search of sleeping pills, and the prepare-to-spit-out-your-raspberry-leaf-tea musical number "Mucus Plug", with the lyrics "Mucus nights – don't Google it. Oh great and now I think I've shat a bit."

It might also be the first ever play to intentionally recruit a cast made up entirely of mothers. As a result, Eastman says, "productivity is extreme". "Mums are the most unbelievably reliable and efficient people because they are juggling so many things that their eye is always on the ball."

It was partly funded by the Knee High Project, a programme created by the Design Council and Guy's and St Thomas' Charity to help improve child and parent healthcare in south London boroughs. With much of the show's content generated through an ongoing series of local workshops where women are asked to add their own experiences to the plot, it will resonate with mums across the land. But it is also a very personal piece for its creator Emily Beecher, who worked alongside co-writer Sally Samad and co-producer Sarah Shead. "I had terrible postnatal depression and psychosis," explains Beecher, whose daughter Maisie is now four years old. "In the beginning I felt amazing. I was like 'this is what I was put on earth to do, she's amazing, I'm amazing'." But between three and five months after giving birth, Beecher, 39, developed postnatal depression, which wasn't diagnosed until 10 months postpartum.

Then postnatal psychosis kicked in. "I remember we were away on holiday and I kept hearing a baby crying. I got really cross with my friends and my husband, I was like 'the girls are crying' and they were like 'the girls are right here'. I thought it must be a baby outside and I was really wrought, thinking 'who lets their baby cry like that?' And it would happen every time I tried to go to sleep."

"Everyone said 'you're just really tired'... In the end I walked into change Maisie – there are lines about this in the show – I literally walked in and I looked up and there was this huge puddle of blood on the ceiling, and the walls." Finally, after confiding in her husband, Johnny, about her hallucinations, Beecher was treated as outpatient at a psychiatric unit where her therapist suggested writing as a way to work through her feelings. "She said, 'Why don't you write, even if you just do five minutes or type into your phone while you're in the loo?'"

So Beecher did, and three months later following "a lightbulb moment", Good Enough Mums Club was conceived. "I'd had a really shit day and I came into therapy in floods of tears and I said, 'Today I've decided I'm not ever going to be a great mum. I'm never going to be that great mum that you see with her kids. And I can't do it and it's not me. I'm just going to have to settle for being good enough.'" Her therapist's response, says Beecher, an actress-turned producer-turned-writer, was a revelation.

"She said, 'Do you know what? Perfectionism is as damaging as neglect. I see more patients in my practice who are children of parents who are perfectionists than I do of children whose parents just muddled along and made mistakes,' and it just really struck me."

From then on, once she started talking about her experience, Beecher found that others started to confide their own imperfections in her – and so The Good Enough Mums Club was born.

When the show opens next week, every performance – scheduled so that mums can feasibly catch a matinée between lunch and afternoon school pick-ups – will be a bit different, evolving with the experience of its audience members. "Women fill in a questionnaire on their way in," Eastman explains. "During the show we'll use those confessionals, anonymously. At the end of each performance the audience makes a pledge based on suggestions made by supporters on Facebook, like 'I will never glare at other women because they've got the buggy spot on the bus, or I will never look in despair when someone sits down next to me with a baby on a plane'. It's about inclusivity, solidarity but most of all its about fun." µ

'The Good Enough Mums Club', the Bedford, London SW12 (thegoodenoughmumsclub.com) 10 & 11 July; the Three Stags, London SE1, 16 to 20 July

Arts and Entertainment
Keith from The Office ten years on

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams prepares to enter the House of Black and White as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones season five

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Albert Hammond Junior of The Strokes performs at the Natural History Museum on July 6, 2006 in London, England.

music
Arts and Entertainment
Howard Mollison, as played by Michael Gambon
tv review
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech

The best TV shows and films coming to the service

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn