That Boy opens with a mother standing in her kid’s bedroom, the floor strewn with plush toys, Lego pieces and crumpled pyjamas; it may be a familiar scene, but the story of the mother tasked with cleaning it up is rarely told. Not entirely, anyway.
This may be because there is an unspoken oath of motherhood: the illusion that parenting is “the greatest joy” must be upheld at all costs, for the good of the species.
It may be because the discussion of behavioural management challenges so often rebounds back upon the parent: maybe you’re not being tough enough on them?
Or maybe it is because they are just too darn tired, and nobody will listen anyway?
The sole star of That Boy, Martha Lott, also co-wrote and produced the work; she knows how to multi-task, as this story about a single mother raising two kids, including a young boy not quite far enough on the spectrum to be diagnosed, is her story.
Alongside director Yasmin Gurreeboo and dramaturge Nescha Jelk, Lott has brought to the stage content normally only discussed in the principal’s office or the emergency department; at crisis point.
In doing so, with such bravery and palpable rawness, she will bring solace to all those mothers who thought they were the only ones who felt the way she did. She will also bring a new understanding to the rest of us who only glimpse the iceberg tip: a supermarket meltdown over a pack of Skittles or a tantrum in the car park at school pick up time. Maybe by more openly discussing the travails of juggling work and parenting, particularly for single parents and those raising children with diverse needs, changes will occur so that parents and their children need not reach the tipping point.
Lott tirelessly works for the show’s duration unravelling a narrative while packing, folding and arranging her beloved son’s possessions. How does she know where everything goes? Because she does it every day, knowing that she will need to start anew again tomorrow. That is love. This show is love, in all its ugliness.
Season: 18 February to 21 March 2021
Venue: The Studio and The Centenary Hall at Holden Street Theatres