To be at this show’s premiere felt like a real privilege. Having been awarded the Propeller Award in 2020, after birth voices its powerhouse story with clarity, wit and integrity and was welcomed by two sold out nights of their three-night run. Shown at The North Wall Arts Centre, in connection with The National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, Nuffield Department of Population Health, the University of Oxford and the national charity Action on Postpartum Psychosis as well as links to TORCH, this production succeeds on many levels in its portrayal of womanhood and life with (and treatment of) conditions like Postpartum Psychosis. The immaculate script by Zena Forster and clear direction from Grace Duggan brought so much life to this heartfelt story of one woman’s recovery, I felt completely immersed in the narrative’s multifaceted accomplishments. Previously adapted from their show Stitch Up in 2019, after birth’s freshly-delivered hue cried out in rapture.
Set in a psychiatric detainment centre (or so we are told by Ann), the way her animosity to the environment and her doctors wain as she attempts to “be better” is ingeniously integrated into her perspectives and monologues. From nonsensical word-spew to lived-in and self-aware relationships, Forster’s insights achieve a lyrical and impactful success. Not attempting to shy away from the infections and stitches that often come with postpartum and the inhibited libido and drug-related complications of the illness as well as the conversations around them, this show crams in every nursing pad and anecdote related with moments of tear-jerking grit.
Samantha Robinson, in the lead, shines as Ann. With glimpses of actress Samantha Morton, charismatic Robinson carries the play with intuitive flare, excellent comic timing and a knock-out singing voice to boot. The two multi-character players Alice Vilanculo and Simon Darwen capture an incredible range and carry all of their parts with ease and strength. All three skilfully navigate the show as if they had been performing a 6-week run together. The simple and engaging staging and sound design too, liken themselves to a seasoned production on the
Finding the words to describe this much-awaited trip to the theatre proved harder than expected. The one-and-a-half-hour run-time flew by and I had hardly taken notes. I left the auditorium with this warm and fuzzy feeling in my stomach, the soothing smell of stage smoke in my pollen-plagued nose and a renewed sense of gratitude for all the women in my life. With the last line of Ann’s being of concern for another young mother’s fate, this felt like a love-note of sorts. Slick and packs a punch, I hear award bells ringing. Keep an eye out for this one.