Wildly colourful and incredibly moving

Marshall allows her audience to tap into her psyche with her one-woman show Hold Mommy’s Cigarette

Adam Borohov

Staff Writer

Shelley Marshall takes back her 28 days spent in a psychiatric ward with this wildly colourful one-woman show, Hold Mommy’s Cigarette. Marshall’s wide range of characters, stemming from her mother to a seven-year-old version of herself, creates for an extremely colourful atmosphere for us to play in, as she grounds us in a psychological sanctuary.

The show takes place in a small loft on Carlaw Ave., which effectively happens to be Marshall’s place of living. The stage itself is set up much like the setting of a sitcom, and although small, works very well with the conditions in which we are placed, immersing us right into her life.

The show opens with the title character, a mother, who seems burdened by the people she takes care of. A running gag throughout the show displays the mother, being unsure of something, obnoxiously yelling at her husband for the answer through the door. The entirety of her presence on stage is accompanied by a cigarette in her hand, which she continuously waves around and smokes as she goes through her endless complaints, reminiscent of years of disappointment. As we move along through the show, we see how this character inherently grounds everyone else, creating justification for any other behaviour that is brightly showcased later on with other characters.

What threw me off a bit was the inability to distinguish between the different characters, specifically the characters who were being played as older versions of themselves. For example, early on during the performance, the mother states that her younger daughter, Gloria, was subject to similar life choices, as she was married at fifteen, getting pregnant beforehand. What later threw me off was not knowing whether the younger blonde lady being portrayed was in fact Gloria or the mother, though the confusion seemed to clear up once the play progressed and Marshall displayed the same character, yet slightly older, speaking to Gloria over the phone.

Another character worth mentioning (as it was one of my favourites) is a younger version of Marshall herself, who comes on directly after the mother, wearing mittens and glasses that magnify her eyes, creating a comedic caricature of a little girl. In her arms, throughout the performance, she holds a suitcase, which we later see is a metaphor for the baggage she carried with her throughout her life. What is particularly interesting about this segment is the montage in which she places her arm through a robe on a hanger, turning her arm into her mother’s, making it seem as though she is being caressed. Throughout this montage, “the mother” pulls out an interesting assortment of items from her pocket, which Marshall interacts with, such as pills and candy.

All in all, Marshalls’ performance is incredibly moving, and frankly, contains what much comedy seems to be lacking nowadays: purpose.

 Hold Mommy’s Cigarette runs until October 28th and tickets cost $20 at the door, with half the proceeds going towards Red Door Family Shelter, a shelter for homeless families and abused women in Toronto.