Various characters are introduced, one by one, in With Child – it’s the sort of play that almost can’t win. If it dealt with each story on a standalone basis (which it does), then it is inferred that it is difficult to see how the different narratives interconnect in order for the whole to become more than the sum of its parts. If, instead, extracts from the different stories are put together in such a way that Clare Pointing changes between characters, the play is at risk of becoming unnecessarily complicated. In the end, simple but effective is what works here.
There are different mannerisms, personalities and accents to enjoy, and the amount of detail in each of the half a dozen women portrayed results in excellent character development, and in such a brief space of time. The most memorable for me was one who raises the roof and makes it clear to her partner that she has nothing against men in general, “just you!” This was hardly a feminist rant – she really wasn’t asking for the earth and then some but appeared to be in a controlling relationship from which she desired to be set free from.
The first scene is set in a gym, with some maintenance work going on in the women’s changing rooms, being carried out by men, so the gym’s management have decided that for today, the men’s changing room shall become the women’s changing room and vice versa. This leads to regulars, men and women alike, going into the ‘wrong’ room, despite signage, presumably by force of habit. Pointing’s character is aghast at another woman who might have exposed herself when yet another man goes through the wrong door. ‘Might’ being the operative word.
Another one would rather regress back into childhood, or at least into the family home, to be looked after by her mother rather than her husband, and another is what some people would describe as a ‘chav’. It’s possible, given the sheer breadth of topics covered during the show – anything from eating habits to flower arranging – to think that there isn’t an overarching theme to hook onto. But there is. These women are all (the clue is in the play’s title) with child.
What the play deftly demonstrates is that life carries on during pregnancy and not everything that goes on in the day of the life of an expectant mother is directly related to nothing else but the bump. This is a unique production and I don’t think I can honestly recall seeing a pregnant woman on stage discussing anything and everything except the pregnancy. It is not a challenging piece of theatre in itself, but in its exploration of everyday living, the point is well made: women rule over their pregnancy, not the other way around. Humorous and poignant in equal measure.
Review by Chris Omaweng
With Child is a rousing reaction to the expectations and pressures society places on women to be maternal, kind, considerate and nurturing. This frank series of “talking heads” style monologues invites audiences to take a glimpse at the everyday lives of six character who refuse to be defined by their pregnancies and encourages us to question our preconceptions of expectant mothers. Inspired by the work of writers such as Victoria Wood and Alan Bennet, the warts and all portrayals of these punchy and powerful characters will make you laugh, cry and cringe.
VENUE: The Cellar, Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33), 60 Pleasance, EH8 9TJ
DATES: Wednesday 31st July – Sunday 25th August 2019 (except Wednesday 14th August)
TIME: 3:30pm (1hr)