Seen in The Drum at the Theatre Royal Plymouth.
Morgan LLoyd Malcolm's new play looks at the pressures and emotions many women experience when they have their first baby. No one can really prepare them for it and it comes loaded with a mixture of love, fear and hormones. This beautifully crafted play, developed in collaboration with Francesca Moody Productions, dips inside the mind of one sleep-deprived woman to illuminate the issues of mental health and anxiety-driven paranoia that can result.
Rehearsal photo by The Other Richard.
Nina (Sophie Melville) is having her first night off, baby is taken away by mother in law (Denise Black) and her friend Jackie (Cat Simmons) is coming around to help her indulge in wine, pizza and freedom - to be followed by her first good night's sleep in months. Director Abigail Graham keeps the pace frenetic for most of the show helping us to feel the angst of the unfolding situation. The three actors integrate so well together and Denise and Cat provide all of the additional characters required to drive the story forward. I was completely engrossed in the characters and the story - performances, dialogue and interactions were all completely believable. At times difficult to watch, this is a clever piece with plenty of twists - particularly the ending (no spoilers, go see it!).
Sophie Melville does an amazing job as Nina, powerful, manic, pleading and ever so slightly (!) crazed throughout, hers is an energetic and driven performance. Denise Black as the mother-in-law is both charming and somewhat frightening in her relationship - we see here two generations of mothers and their differing expectations reflecting changing social norms. Denise delivers secure performances in her other characters, especially I felt, the Judge whose calmness counterpoints beautifully with Nina's frustration. Cat Simmons, as the friend who, by chance, is also a pediatric specialist (not sure what type) draws the line between supporting her mate and acting in the best interests of the child with great care - again, she moves easily into other characters and we are never confused by the doubling.
The simple set works very well and the whole is a theatrical delight, if a hard emotional journey.
p.s. With my SIT-UP Awards hat on I was pleased to learn that there are trigger warnings on the web site prior to booking and a follow-up email for attendees with information on groups and charities people could contact to get (or provide) support - excellent.