Libby Liburd tells us about Walthamstow, being a boxer, and what inspired her to write about being a single mother.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Libby Liburd. I trained at East 15 Acting School, and since then I've basically been a jobbing actor. A few years ago, I started to return to another love of mine – writing. I'm the single mother to my 15 year old son, and we live in Walthamstow. I'm also a bit of a boxer in my spare time.
How did the idea of Muvvahood come about?
I started writing again principally because I wanted to write roles for myself – things that would challenge me and allow me to tell stories that we don't generally see represented. I'd been thinking about writing something about being a single mother for a while mainly because we really don't see many, if any, positive representations of lone parent families in the theatre or media.
You spoke to a lot of single mothers when you were creating the piece. Were there stories that stood out to you the most?
The main thing that stood out to me was the love. Every mother was doing her best for her children and all of them had this fierce lioness-like love. It also surprises many people, but even the mothers in very challenging circumstances were all working. None of the mothers I spoke to fit that stereotype of lazy, work-shy single mother on benefits that the media love to peddle. Everyone has a reason as to why they are raising their children alone – there is no typical reason, and I wanted to be sure that I represented that diversity.
So what is a single mother actually like?
The mothers I interviewed spoke about the eternal juggling act – something I can relate to! You're covering two roles at home, so you need to be the main breadwinner and the main parent at the same time – now, that ain't easy! All the mothers I spoke to had cultivated a great sense of humour, probably to counteract the stresses and strains of daily life. So I'd say a single mother is a funny, fierce, organised force of nature. (And she's probably knackered too!)
Do you have to be a single mother to enjoy the show?
Not at all, no no no, that’d be so boring. Being a single parent, or any parent is a really humbling thing. It's very human. Your joys and mistakes are amplified, and I think any human being can relate to that. There's plenty in the show to appeal to everyone – visuals, voiceovers, it's colourful and upbeat and dynamic, there are hats, music, I talk to projections, I do actual maths on stage. Actual maths. It's also a really funny show.
It is a very funny show! But it is also a frank and emotional discussion about being a single parent. Was it difficult to add humour to the subject?
It was actually the easiest thing. Some of the stories in Muvvahood feel bleak, and yet you'll see that moment when the clouds break and there's that chink of light. That's human nature, we look for the light in the dark.
As a performer, I instinctively gravitate towards comedy anyway, so it was easy for me to pick out the moments where there was just this natural humour. Comedy is also a useful tool to use to highlight the ridiculousness of some of the ideas that society has about being a single mum, we can all have a massive laugh at the some of the nonsense that's out there.
Finally, what would you like the audience to take away from the show?
Well, mainly I want an audience to go away feeling like Muvvahood is a really good bit of theatre in its own right, as well as a piece about single mums. It's a solo show, so the audience goes on a journey with me. I'd love audiences to come away feeling that they've not only enjoyed that journey, but also found out some new things that might just change their perspective.
I'd also love audiences to come away singing the theme tune of Walthamstow... If you want to find out what that is, you need to come and see the show!
Crafted from hours of interviews it explores the emotional and economic issues surrounding single motherhood, created from the voices of single mothers living in London today.
THU 27 - SAT 29 OCTOBER