There are very few people who relish the prospect of speaking in public, and delivering a wedding speech can, for many, be a traumatic experience. But what happens when the speech itself uncovers years of trauma caused by your own mother? Cheryl May Coward-Walker’s The Wedding Speech, examining toxic relationships, comes to VAULT Festival.
In this solo show, we are introduced to Rosemary (Rose) who has stumbled into the bathroom at her mother’s wedding reception. Rose tells us that it’s almost time to deliver the speech, but it’s not quite finished yet, and hopefully we can help her add the finishing touches.
As Rose goes through he speech, we learn more about her life, including her own marriage and potential pregnancy. But we find out much more about her relationship with her mother, as Rose searches for anecdotes The Wedding Speech slowly unveils the unhappy upbringing Rose has endured. There was always food on the table, Rose tells us, “but we were emotionally starved.”
Cheryl May Coward-Walker’s reveals Rose’s mother to be selfish and narcissistic, Rose describes the mental health issues her mother faced, but seems unable to recognise her own issues that have manifested themselves following years of trying to love someone who seemingly did not want to love back.
Princess Donnough as Rose is effervescent from the very first moment on stage, it’s a very likable character and one that you find yourself almost immediately sympathising with, in part due to Donnough’s skilful performance.
Paula Chitty’s set sees the black box stage bursting with rose gold and pink balloons, a dressing table, crystal chandelier, and of course, a toilet. Rose is essentially hiding in the bathroom, she may be able to fool herself into thinking she’s retreated to work on the speech, but it becomes clear to us that deep down Rose knows she isn’t wanted, and is simply delaying the inevitable.
Though tackling some tough issues, The Wedding Speech, has plenty of comedy. Donnough easily transitions between the light and dark, helped by some clever lighting design. We hear voices from off-stage; the wedding party in full swing, and it all helps to create this feeling of someone who is surrounded by people, but is utterly alone.
Coward-Walker’s The Wedding Speech is thoroughly entertaining, and pulls the audience into the story in a way that has us desperate to stand up and fight Rose’s corner. We feel Rose’s frustration, anger, and hurt as if it were our own, making for a remarkably visceral piece of theatre.
VAULT Festival 2023 runs Tuesday 24th January to Sunday 19th March, full listings and ticket information can be found here.