Some people want a baby so bad that they will go to great lengths to achieve their dream of motherhood. This then is the central theme of Effie Samara’s “Baby” at The Hope Theatre Islington,
Dr Antonia Innes-Kerr (Cate Cammack) is a gifted surgeon married to a man unfortunate enough to have a low sperm count and therefore unable to give her the one thing she wants, a baby of her own. Despite the disparaging comments of her overbearing mother (Alice Haig) and the fact that legally Antonia needs the permission of her husband before undertaking any form of IVF or other non-standard baby making methods, she is determined to go through with it. Antonia has a donor lined up and ready, a fellow doctor Patrick O’Shea (Andrew Nolan) but there is a problem, as Antonia is due to testify against him in a professional misconduct case. Somehow she must reconcile these two competing priorities and decide which is more important, a baby or professional integrity?
“Baby” is writer Effie Samara’s first full length play and she really didn’t set herself an easy task in tackling such a delicate subject, not just a woman’s right to chose but also at what point does a professional person ignore their conscience and wave goodbye to the ethics of their profession? Now, I have to be honest, being a chap that has never wanted children – I can make all the right cooing noises when called upon but am really happy giving ankle biters back to their parents – Some of the themes of the play didn’t really resonate with me. I didn’t really understand why Antonia and her husband didn’t seem to consider the adoption route – particularly given how awful Antonia’s mother was. Director Abigail Pickard Price and Designer Christopher Hone have put together a good play with an intriguing and highly flexible set that, whilst still retaining all the physical characteristics of a surgery, becomes a park, a tube train and a family home with some simple adjustments and a touch of imagination. The story is told told in segments – including really well staged grilling of Antonia at Cambridge by a series of disembodied voices (Eleanor Hafner, Katherine Jack and Natasha Killam). Cate Cammack brings a lovely sense of reality to Antonia, most of the time, cold, detached, scientific but sometimes showing some wonderful elements of pure humanity – especially in her relationship with her mother who she seems to hate and love in equal measure. Alice Haig, as well as playing the mother, slips into other roles – a woman with a baby in the park, a nurse, etc – with ease and Andrew Nolan’s portrayal of Patrick – a man willing to donate his sperm in the more traditional way if only Antonia, the woman he is in love with – would let him, is poignant and sweet, even if he does play golf on the wrong days.
All in all, “Baby” is an intriguing play that puts some interesting moral dilemmas in front of the audience and, in many respects, lets them make up their own minds as to what they would do in the same circumstances. The great thing is the answer will probably be different for every member of the audience and will definitely be the cause of some potentially heated discussions in the bar afterwards. Any play that has that effect is worthy of my respect.
Review by Terry Eastham
Two doctors, one farmer, one dead body and a phial of donor sperm.
Baby is a play about a woman’s right to self-determination. Dr. Antonia Innes-Kerr is one of the most gifted surgeons of her generation. But choosing between testifying against a male colleague and convincing him to make her pregnant will prove the most challenging operation of her life. Though a man can donate sperm a woman must receive her husband’s permission to receive artificial insemination via donor sperm. Antonia must overcome not only moral obstacles but also the law in order to achieve her dream of having a child. Baby is a new play by Effie Samara directed by KiteHigh’s artistic director award nominated Abigail Pickard Price.
Cast: Cate Cammack, Alice Haig, Andrew Nolan
14th April to 2nd May 2015