Stoke Newington actress stars in play about the dilemma women face

Balancing a career and a family is a dilemma faced by today’s mums – and one of the issues explored in a play starring a Stoke Newington actress, beginning Tuesday.

Balancing a career and a family is a dilemma faced by today’s mums – and one of the issues explored in a play starring a Stoke Newington actress, beginning Tuesday.

‘My Mother Said I Never Should’, on the National Theatre’s ‘100 Significant Plays of the 20th century’ list, looks at how women’s roles have changed over the last century.

In a society striving for gender equality, the play questions what feminism has actually brought us, by focusing on four generations of women from a Manchester family.

Tania Haq plays Jackie, whose mother brings up her daughter, after she accidentally becomes pregnant while studying at university in 1969.

Tania, 29, who lives near Oldhill Street, really felt for the character when she first read the play.

“Deep down Jackie knew it was wrong to give up her daughter, she did it because she though it was the best thing for her child, but she regretted it her whole life,” she said.

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Jackie was the first generation in her family who had the chance of a career, and although is successful in her work, she is constantly pulled by the fact she would have preferred to choose motherhood

Tania thinks the main theme of the play is keeping up appearances, and following social duty.

“It’s about what you are told by society is moral and right and what you know instinctively is right,” she said.

“When Jackie gave her baby away it was looked down upon to be a single parent, she had a lot of pressure from her mum and society that she would never amount to anything if she kept it.”

Although Tania doesn’t believe women now face the same pressures, she does find they are forced to choose between a career and a family - because it is nigh on impossible to succeed at both.

“Women still take the vast majority of the responsibility of bringing up the family, and a lot of them work too, but can’t invest as much energy into their careers,” she said.

Tania, who trained as a contemporary dancer, wants to be a successful actress and playwright - but would also dearly love to have children herself.

“It seems to me if you are male you can have both your family and your career - and you need to have both because it’s not enough to devote your whole life to a job.

“You need something else to give you esteem in your life,” she added.

The ground-breaking play, which was first performed in 1987 and is now studied by A-level and GCSE students, also explores the emotional inheritance left from one generation to another, and the jealousy parents feel when they see their children outstripping them

The play’s four actresses were lucky enough to gain an insight by questioning the playwright herself, Charlotte Keatley, who travelled down from Manchester.

“To be honest it was quite daunting - obviously you want to make a good impression because we want to do her work justice,” said Tania.

“She gave her take on the play and I was pleased. Because it’s such a complex play, I think there are a few interpretations you could come up - with but she reiterated my understanding of the character.”

A multi-talented woman, Tania has written a play, Hello Darkness, about how society perceives mental illness, which she hopes to stage at the Arcola theatre next year.

She has also produced a short film, Let’s Go, about the nature of reality, which she hopes to send to next year’s London Film Festival.

When Tania finished training as an actor in 2008, she joined the Tower Theatre Company, which is putting on the play.

“I have been trying to break into acting industry but it’s been really difficult, especially at the moment because the industry is suffering, so I decided I couldn’t wait around any more for a job,” she said.

The amateur theatre company is hoping to build a �7million theatre by 2012 on the site of Shakespeare’s old theatre in Shoreditch.

‘My Mother Said I Never Should’ runs from Tuesday October 26 to Saturday October 30 at the Bridewell Theatre in Bride Lane, Fleet Street, with performances at 7.45pm and 3pm on Saturday.

Tickets priced at �12, concessions �11, are available from the Tower Theatre Box Office on 020 7353 1700 or online at