Motherhood is all over the new play FALLEN WOMEN, as a motif and as a theme, manifesting in diverse and far-reaching ways. The positive and the negative of it, the responsibility and burden. The significance of the role in people’s lives, and the lives of their children, or child figures.
I didn’t want to be prescriptive about it— present the theme as if there’s only one way for a person to be a mother, or feel about their parenthood. Particularly since our main character’s alienation from it has been a consistent part of her character. This play actually contains the most references to Gabriel, Mrs. and Colonel Hawking’s stillborn son, of any show, though few of them are direct. But more important than that is the nature of the relationship between our main characters.
Mrs. Hawking’s relationship with Mary and Nathaniel is very parental in a lot of ways. She teaches them, she protects them, she loves them in a way she never would have thought possible. And when they individuate from her, wanting things and pushing for things she doesn’t, it’s painful for her in the way it is for any parent whose child is abjecting from them.
But at the same time, a lot of her filling this role is reluctant. Mrs. Hawking chafes under the responsibility she owes Mary and Nathaniel. They have emotional needs of her that she finds difficult to fulfill. Even more than that, she is afraid of what this connection means to them. Intimacy has always been a double-edged sword for her, and she fears needing them in turn too much. And she is afraid of what loving her, needing her, will do to them. In the last several years, it has been driven home for her that everyone she was ever close to was either destroyed by it, or forced to leave her for their own wellbeing.
As for the rest of the story, the presence of motherhood manifesting in the lives of others is all around them. Many of the ways are spoilers, so I don’t want to be too specific. But this case is going to be rife with women who intersect with motherhood in varied ways. Even Mrs. Frost knows more about this topic than we may have previously suspected, and her perspective will have a profound influence on Mrs. Hawking.
Creating a layered narrative is always really important for Hawking shows. And the Jack the Ripper case is a well-worn one in storytelling, so of course we’ve got to do what we can to bring our own interpretation, our own meaning to it. This is one of the ways we’re attempting to do this.
Catch Mrs. Hawking in MRS. FROST and the all-new FALLEN WOMEN this January at Arisia 2020 in Boston, MA!