Birthday by Joe Penhall – Royal Court Theatre – Review

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Joe Penhall’s new play takes a look at the NHS but in a more humourous but equally damning way as his most well known (and best, in my opinion) play Blue/Orange.

The humour mainly comes from the role reversal that the character Ed is in. He’s pregnant. Over the 90 minutes of the play we see how he and his wife cope with his going into and then the other side of labour.

Ed is splendidly played by Stephen Mangan and his wife Lisa who gave birth to their first child is played by Lisa Dillon. Their interplay and quips range from laugh out loud to desperately sad.

Llewella Gideon plays the midwife and gets huge mileage from playing the gruff character nurse with the heart of gold buried underneath.

Louise Brealey as the doctor  is a small but important role especially when she explains her decision not to have children contrasted with why Lisa and Ed have decided to have children.

It’s an enjoyable play but I did feel Joe Penhall went for the easy laughs rather than stretch himself and his audience. A shame as the reality he exposes regarding the disgraceful way the NHS treats some pregnant women I think could have been served better with less of the vulgar humour and language.

It’s no Blue/Orange (and it’s no Haunted Child either thankfully), it’s a fun night out nothing more, nothing less.

STARS : * * *

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