CurtainUp
CurtainUp

The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings
www.curtainup.com


HOME PAGE

SITE GUIDE

SEARCH

REVIEWS

REVIEW ARCHIVES

ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP

FEATURES

NEWS
Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


LISTINGS
Broadway
Off-Broadway

NYC Restaurants

BOOKS and CDs

OTHER PLACES
Berkshires
London
California
New Jersey
DC
Connecticut
Philadelphia
Elsewhere

QUOTES

TKTS

PLAYWRIGHTS' ALBUMS

LETTERS TO EDITOR

FILM

LINKS

MISCELLANEOUS
Free Updates
Masthead
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp London London Review
Birthday


Thatís how they get away with it, they get away with lack of care and poor standards and infections and short staffing Ė they donít care if you have a terrible experience because you donít want to talk about it and the chances are you wonít be back anyway. — Ed
Birthday
Stephen Mangan as Ed (Photo: Johan Persson)
Disguised as a comedy Birthday is Joe Penhallís passionate polemic on the state of the National Health Service when it comes to childbirth. Returning to the setting in the NHS of his 2000 play Blue/Orange, Birthday is set in a hospital overlooking a prison, Hammersmith Hospital comes to mind, as it is in Du Cane Road next to Wormwood Scrubs. Ed and Lisa are awaiting the birth of their second child. The unusual situation is that Ed is the expectant mother after Lisa was left so damaged from the birth of their son that no further pregnancies were possible.

The comedy is most entertaining based as it is on the gender swap where Ed asks Lisa why she has forgotten his magazines and whines a lot while Lisa reminds him how hard she has to work as the breadwinner to support a family. It will make you laugh out loud. There is the unforgettable description of The Guardian newspaper as The Daily Mail for hand wringing Liberals! Some of the medical information doesnít work realistically as I donít think anyone is induced before a Caesarian if they know in advance that the only way the baby will be born is by Caesar. As Ed has an artificial womb but not an artificial birth canal, I take issue with the birth process. What Penhall is describing is the gruelling attempt at a natural birth where, after the baby gets into difficulties, an emergency Caesarian under general anaesthetic becomes essential and traumatic. Birth is something most of us donít have the opportunity to practise. It isnít like wall papering, something that we can perfect over time and many of us do not have the dreamed of natural and peaceful birth, minimising trauma for both parent and baby.

In Birthday everything goes wrong, Ed is induced, the operation is delayed because of other emergencies until, with the cord round its neck, Ed and Lisaís baby becomes an emergency of its own. The baby is born after the mauling operation, whisked off to special care and then the doctor breaks the news that the baby has contracted the iatrogenic MRSA superbug and Ed is left with a temperature and a raging stitch infection, something I can personally identify with.

Stephen Mangan is more associated with comedic roles and hapless situations. The audience find it hard to stop laughing at him when potentially tragic events take over. Lisa Dillon plays a straighter role as a very patronising breadwinner with terrible male preconceptions. Llewella Gideon is a stereotypical African midwife and Louise Brealey is a young doctor almost completely out of her depth. As the last few laughs of black comedy die away when the play becomes more serious, there is a paradigm shift from light comedy to painful tragedy. I was left puzzling about who the potential audience is for this play: people who have been through the birth experience who can relate to the drama or would it appeal to people not yet having started families? I am not sure. Should it be compulsory viewing for hospital chief executives? Decidely!



Subscribe to our FREE email updates with a note from editor Elyse Sommer about additions to the website -- with main page hot links to the latest features posted at our numerous locations. To subscribe, E-mail: esommer@curtainup.comesommer@curtainup.com
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message -- if you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.
Birthday
Written by Joe Penhall
Directed by Roger Michell

Starring: Lisa Dillon, Stephen Mangan
Design: Mark Thompsom
Lighting: Hugh Vanstone
Sound: John Leonard
Running time: One hour 35 minutes without an interval
Box Office: 020 7565 5000
Website: www.royalcourttheatre.com
Booking to 4th August 2012
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 28th June 2012 performance at the Royal Court, Sloane Square. London SW1W 8AS (Tube: Sloane Square)

REVIEW FEEDBACK
Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of Birthday
  • I disagree with the review of Birthday
  • The review made me eager to see Birthday
Click on the address link E-mail: esommer@curtainup.com
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email . . . also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

London Theatre Walks


Peter Ackroyd's  History of London: The Biography



London Sketchbook



tales from shakespeare
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
Our Review


©Copyright 2012, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from esommer@curtainup.com