Not JUST A Mother

Refinery ArtSpace, 114 Hardy St, Nelson

29/03/2023 - 30/03/2023

Nelson Fringe Festival 2023

Production Details

Nikkie Karki in collaboration with Donna Chapman

A one-woman developmental piece of character theatre exploring the roles within motherhood through storytelling. Join mum Charlotte for her retelling of the trials and tribulations of parenting two children with all the constraints and expectations of society’s judgements. Devised and experimental collaboration between Donna Chapman and Nikkie Karki.
Refinery ArtSpace
Wed 29 & Thurs 30 Mar
Tickets $15

Performer Nikkie Karki

Theatre , Solo ,


Well-observed, humorous foray into the muddled mind of motherhood

Review by John Du Four 01st Apr 2023

Under the guise of a workshop presentation reassuringly entitled ‘Positive Parenting is Possible,’ Nikkie Karki’s character Charlotte sets out to educate and illuminate. 

The fact that Charlotte arrives frantically at the venue – a simple yet entirely adequate black box theatre – as the audience sits and waits patiently, her hair and face a dishevelled mess, points immediately to the comic aspects which regularly punctuate the ensuing show.

What unfolds is our first glimpse into Charlotte’s world of chaotic mothering, as she explains her appearance by the fact that she’d fallen asleep that morning reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar for the hundredth, no, thousandth time, to her five-year-old daughter, Willow, and two-year-old son, Simon.

It turns out that as Charlotte slept, Willow had been her hairdresser, while Simon – “the budding artist” – had taken to her face. Charlotte’s sudden discovery of her appearance in her make-up mirror, and her largely ineffectual quick tidy-up, gives Karki the first of many opportunities to show her comic acting chops. 

Over the next forty-five minutes the loving yet long-suffering Charlotte regales the small but appreciative Fringe audience with an over-arching story of how she once ventured out with Simon to a store for some shopping. Her child gives her the slip, and as she looks for him everywhere – a very funny scene – she discovers in the furniture department the unmistakeable trail that leads to her boy.

Such an anecdotal tale, of course, reminds any of us who have experienced looking after children, just how fraught and trying it can be.

Charlotte’s subsequent running into a snooty, self-opinionated and judgemental acquaintance, played also by Karki, affords the opportunity to highlight some of society’s most easily-tossed-out mores on ‘good’ parenting. This interaction might be sharper if the depiction of the friend isn’t quite so stereotyped: she needn’t be so plum-in-the-mouth, nose in the air, cruelly dismissive, to drive the point home.

There are some truly powerful gems in this show, like when Charlotte repeatedly pulls at her face and says, over and over again, how she’s “just so tired.”

And the beautifully poised scene where she remembers first holding her baby, Willow, and in spite of all her fears, her difficulty getting the baby to breastfeed, her worrying over the negative impact of using a dummy – all the new mother really wants is to “just let me love my baby.”

Another sweet moment just begging to be expanded is where Charlotte remembers looking through the eyes of her young child and marvelling at life’s wonder.

Charlotte finally reflects that a mother never gets any training, yet needs to be so many things: “a therapist, a chef, an entertainer, a teacher.”

At the shows close, she suddenly remembers the workshop – ostensibly, the reason we’ve all assembled – and swinging at last into assured presenter mode, she leads the audience in a group exercise to kick things off.

Having comically presented the highs and lows, the endless struggles and bewilderments, the stumbling way we all learn parenting, Not JUST a Mother ends with Charlotte exclaiming with gusto: “Now . . . welcome to ‘Positive Parenting is Possible’.”

The show’s blurb says it is “a one-woman developmental piece of character theatre” – and while it does feel like it’s still finding its legs, the bones are good, with plenty of sharp observations, solid comic acting, and some delightful stand-out moments.

A simple set to help cement from the outset the workshop scenario (just a whiteboard with the workshop title on it would suffice) would be a sensible addition – but otherwise, Not JUST a Mother is enjoyable theatre; a well-observed, humorous foray into the muddled mind of motherhood. One is left eagerly awaiting where Karki and her creative collaborator Donna Chapman take things. 


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