Meet the Amazing Mothers Ruin in Interview


Easter Monday afternoon and my husband said Fancy seeing something in the Bath Comedy Festival tonight?
Yeah, what had you in mind? I replied lazily from the sofa.

Well, there is this thing by two women on gin, and you love gin and supporting women performers, so…

There is a reason I’ve been with that guy for over 42 years, he knows me far too well. As well as the cabaret you even got given a gin as you entered. Lest you think I am a slavish follower of fashion and have just got into gin because it’s trendy, let me disabuse you. I was drinking gin when Elsie Tanner had it with a slug of undiluted orange squash in a small glass. (Young people, you’ll have to Google her). I think she later graduated to tonic. Bad girl Elsie was an early role model of mine…

Enough of my inglorious past, onto today’s interview subjects, the fabulous Mother’s Ruin! The act comprises two Australian women, Maeve Marsden and Libby Wood. In addition to the witty lyrics about gin (see the video below) they both have gorgeous voices; I could have listened to them for hours. It’s a great cabaret show and I urge to see it if you get a chance.

Jane: Darlings, first, can I say how much I enjoyed your show. So funny and clever, and free gin, a lethal combination. How did you get into performing?
Thank you so much! We’ve both always been fans of the stage, and we both studied arts at Uni, Maeve did Theatre Media at Charles Sturt University and I did Musical Theatre at the Australian Institute of Music.

I think a lot of British people may think Australia is even more misogynistic than the UK. (Well, that might just be my prejudices after watching the Julia Gillard video). Would that be your experience? How do two women, out and loud about feminism and LGBT rights, fare in Australia? Do you notice a difference between the audiences?
: I don’t have a gauge on whether one country is more misogynist than the other, personally I haven’t really noticed a difference. I guess the true misogynists of any country wouldn’t be as attracted to a show about the history of gin and women so we don’t come across them very often.
Maeve: I think masculinity is expressed differently in each country and I think Australian masculinity is more overt so it can come across as a more sexist place. That said, I think gender inequality is bad in both countries, and I don’t experience a difference in terms of audience response or day to day life in each place.

When did you start working together? How did you each get into performing?
We met when I auditioned to be part of a group Maeve had put together called Lady Sings it Better, that was 8 years ago now and we’ve been performing together ever since.

Taking you back a few years, were there any early signs that you’d become performers/writers?
I think it’s always been on the cards, I grew up around performers and music has always been a passion. Lady Sings it Better is a cabaret act with a changing narrative so we’ve always written those shows and Maeve is an acclaimed writer back home, so it was the logical next step.
Maeve: I was always a bit of an exhibitionist and performer – I like attention! So, yes, I suppose there were signs.

Who are your favourite performers?
There are so many but to name a few who work in cabaret: Camille O’Sullivan, Lady Rizo, Le Gateau Chocolat, Alan Cumming and the entire cast of Hot Brown Honey.

Performing aside, who else has been a role model for you, or most influential in your life?
 *Ada Coleman, of course! And women like her. Trailblazing women across time.

You’re a long way from home, although I guess Australia is a pretty big place to travel across, too. What do you like least about touring, and what is the best thing about being on tour?
The worst thing is probably repacking the suitcase every 2 days, and missing our partners when we’re away from long stints. But this is also a dream career. The best things about being on tour is getting to travel through the country, stopping in towns we’d probably never get to see if it weren’t on tour, and then every night we get to go on stage and do what we love.

Thinking specifically about sexual inequality, if you could introduce one piece of legislation into Australia designed to address inequality, and to improve women’s experiences, what would it be?
There are loads but today I’ll suggest transferable 12 month parental leave available to both parents regardless of gender coupled with compulsory paternity leave.

What’s next for each of you? I know you have individual projects as well as working together. Where are we likely to see you popping up next?
Mother’s Ruin is heading home for a season at Sydney Opera House, as well as more regional touring. I am working on a book for Queerstories, the LGBTQIA storytelling night and podcast I host and program, and I’ll continue to run that event in Sydney in Melbourne. We’re both performing in a Lady Sings it Better show in September, then in one of our singalong events in November, we’re writing a new show, and we’ll keep touring Mother’s Ruin a while longer! Oh, and we are planning to start hosting a gin themed piano bar variety night in Sydney, Hot Gin Punch.

Ah, if only that gin bar was a bit nearer… And finally, I can’t resist, what is your favourite gin?
I’d have to say either Four Pillars, Brighton or KIS gin
Maeve: I also love Four Pillars because I drink negronis a lot and the orange goes beautifully, other than that, Gin Mare, Bloom Gin, KIS Gin, Eden Mills is really nice, um, 23rd Street, I could go on all day…

You can find the website for Mother’s Ruin here and a list of their tour dates, and connect with them on Twitter, too.

And here’s that video I mentioned. Enjoy it!

Upcoming Dates for Your Calendar

I am running a RenewYou course on June 12th in Bristol, at Arnos Vale. There is a special offer (aka bribe) if you book your place before the end of April so do check it out.

Plus, in May I am in Edinburgh at The Inspiring Women in Business Conference. For once I’m not having to do anything, just enjoy myself. If you’re going along please let me know and we can arrange to say hi.

*Ada Coleman (1875–1966) was head bartender at the Savoy Hotel in London for twenty-three years, one of only two women to have held that position. While working at the Savoy, she invented the “Hanky Panky,a cocktail made thus: In a cocktail shaker over ice pour:

  • 1/2 (1 1/2oz.) Italian Vermouth
  • 1/2 (1 1/2oz) Dry Gin
  • 2 dashes Fernet Branca  Stir,  Strain into a (4 oz.) cocktail glass. Garnish by squeezing an orange peel over the top. See how much you learn from this blog!

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Posted on April 16th, 2018 by

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