Sunday, 15 July 2012
Birthday at The Royal Court
I don’t want to give the game away but something strange is going in on the Maternity Ward of the NHS Hospital on stage at The Royal Court. Stephen Mangan’s Ed eventually appears to be the one about to give birth. Joe Penhall’s latest play is looking at childbirth from the male perspective whilst simultaneously having a very large dig at the inadequacies of our National Health Service.
Stephen Mangan’s discomfort and concern is palpable and I found hidden memories of when I gave birth for the first time resurfacing. His Ed has decided to take on the role of mother following the very difficult birth of his first child by his wife, Lisa, played by Lisa Dillon. Whilst Mangan brings equal amounts of laugh out loud humour, panic and pathos to his role, Dillon never quite elicits much sympathy and remains rather cold and distant throughout. She is by her husband’s side to offer advice and support; after all there aren’t many men who would agree to be fitted with an artificial womb and suffer all the indignities we women suffer in order to produce the second child she is unable to deliver. But there isn’t much sympathy on tap and she even forgets his f***ing raspberry leaf tea – a major sin when your hormones are all to pot!
One would be forgiven for thinking that Joe Penhall has had a pretty difficult time himself when it comes to babies being delivered within the NHS system if the behaviour of the alarmingly laid back nurse, beautifully played by Llewella Gideon is anything to go by.
There are some sharp observations about human nature, especially when the couple rage at the medics when everything is going belly up, but praise them to the hilt when everything goes well.
Roger Mitchell’s direction is excellent and the revolving set perfectly shows us the passing of time; poor old Ed’s labour is definitely laboured.