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The Harmony Test at Hampstead Theatre | Review

Is it me or are multiple pregnancy tests increasingly common in contemporary plays? I did a quick online search after the show – at the time of writing, Tesco are selling two pregnancy tests for £3.50, with the most expensive one being a triple pack from Superdrug at £17.99. In other words, it doesn’t exactly require Zoe (Pearl Chanda) to take out a loan to show Kash (Bally Gill), as she put it, “uno, dos, tres, quatro” tests, all showing positive results. There are a whole load of other details to consider – whether, for instance, the couple even want to keep the baby.

Pearl Chanda as Zoe and Bally Gill as Kash in The Harmony Test. Photo credit: Richard Lakos.
Pearl Chanda as Zoe and Bally Gill as Kash in The Harmony Test. Photo credit: Richard Lakos.

This in itself, later in the play, proved to be a ‘damned if you don’t, damned if you don’t’ moment for Kash, who told Zoe that he would respect her decision to keep the baby, or not, in line with the ‘my body, my choice’ feminist slogan, only to be rebuffed by Zoe, who asserted – justifiably – that as it is ‘their’ baby, and not exclusively hers, and therefore the decision should be a joint one. Playwright Richard Molloy has done brilliantly to come up with female characters that are highly credible in their mannerisms, behaviours and speech – which still doesn’t happen with every new play that makes it to a full production.

The other on-stage lady was Naomi (Jemima Rooper) – “she’s my friend” was about the only context Zoe provided Kash, and therefore the audience, with, at least initially, and the rest became apparent as the play unfolded. At 100 minutes ‘straight through’, it was towards the upper limit in terms of tolerance levels without an interval, particularly with the seating being as cramped as it was in the studio space, reasonably comfortable for ‘shorties’ like me but less than ideal (to put it diplomatically) for taller people. Interestingly, the play is written in two acts, and the end of the first would have been a suitable cliffhanger to have gone into an interval with.

Naomi, recently split from Charlie (Milo Twomey), is now seeing Rocco (Sandro Rosta), the latter being young and photogenic – the playtext describes Naomi and Charlie as in their ‘forties’ with Rocco in his ‘twenties’. Some hilarity ensues in the form of off-stage bedroom activity, as Zoe has taken Naomi and Rocco in. The play is billed as a comedy and largely fulfilled that function with astute perception and observations but was also unafraid to tackle deeper and more serious matters. The audience was chortling away in one scene, and in the next, one could have heard a pin drop.

Dramatic tension came in waves, which gave the audience sufficient breathing space between one intense moment and the next. The play may well be covering well-trodden home life situation comedy territory, and at face value, could be a challenging sell. Then again, love and relationships are relatable to almost everybody. The themes tackled here were dealt with authentically and convincingly. None of the scenes overstayed their welcome and unlike many plays grappling with contemporary living in Britain today, there was never a feeling of ‘first world problems’ with regards to the challenges the characters faced. An absolute triumph, and a highly enjoyable and engaging experience from start to finish.

5 Star Rating

Review by Chris Omaweng

Cast: Pearl Chanda, Bally Gill, Jemima Rooper, Sandro Rosta, Milo Twomey.

Directed by Alice Hamilton
Designed by Sarah Beaton
Lighting Design by Jamie Platt
Sound Design by Harry Blake

‘He says, if we really wanna conceive now, he’s got a little something he can sell me under the counter at a very reasonable price. It will not fail!’

Newlyweds Zoe and Kash are ready to start a family. Zoe wants to take a practical approach: fertility plans, vitamin supplements and a strict diet. Kash, on the other hand, would rather follow the advice of an intriguing man he just met in Holland and Barrett.

Empty-nesters Naomi and Charlie have been living in matrimonial bliss for twenty odd years – or at least they had been according to Charlie. Frustrated and lonely, Naomi heads to the gym in search of a new lease of life. Instead, she finds Rocco – a much younger personal trainer willing to take a hands-on approach to the job…

HAMPSTEAD DOWNSTAIRS / CELIA ATKIN PRESENT
World Premiere
The Harmony Test
By Richard Molloy

Dates: Friday 17 May to Saturday 22 June 2024
Hampstead Theatre

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