Our Baby, Bread & Roses Theatre - Review

The examination of marital strife within stage drama goes together like eggs and bacon, death and taxes.  A Doll's House. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?... Written by Elenora Fusco and directed by Katharina Kastening, Our Baby is very much a part of this grand tradition, with its unforgettable portrayal of a couple's fractured relationship and the child they may... or may not have...   

Beginning shortly before the arrival of their dinner guests, James (Samuel Freeman) is exasperated that his wife Emma (Celine Abrahams) hasn't bought the right meat for the meal. James is very much calling the shots, dictating orders about what Emma should wear... With no other human to confide in, Emma turns to her to the only person that will listen – her large teddy bear.

The dinner party with guests Eveline (Sadie Clark) and Leonard (Winston Obi) is 'less than successful' as the truth comes out about the meat (it WASN'T from Borough Market – *gasp, horror!*) and Emma decides to publicly reciprocate James' passive-aggressive behaviour. And throughout all of this, the sound of a baby crying can be heard...  

While the initial premise of the play starts in recognisible place, there is a underlying sense of dread and tension between Emma and James that is almost Pinteresque. Going forward, a dark thread of humour runs throughout the play as the dinner party becomes Abigail's Party 'turned up to 11'. There are faux pas-aplenty and in this social context, it isn't James who has the upper hand but Emma who has nothing to lose. And still the crying of the baby can be heard...

The remainder of the play returns to this, but it doesn't provide concrete answers. Perhaps the baby is a child they once had, but grief has driven the apart. Or perhaps a baby is a symbol of what they'll never have – the promise of a new life with a clean slate and endless possibilities. The toxic bickering has put an end to that.

Returning to the dinner party scene where the key to the play can be found, Kastening's use of stylised slow – almost stationary – movement is reminiscent of Lars von Trier's Melancholia, where a young bride's unhappiness flies in the face of others' contentedness. This alienation from her husband and his friends is at the expense of her own identity and individuality, whose opinion is given as much deference as a child's.

© Michael Davis 2016

Our Baby ran at the Bread & Roses Theatre from 6th to 10th September 2016.



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