Pros: A very well-written and well executed play about a couple’s challenges with fertility.
Cons: Very few, if any.
Jack and Kim have been trying very hard for a baby. Their lives are a series of rising and falling hopes, doctors appointments and a private struggle with their inability to conceive a child. A chance encounter on a train with an old friend pulls them into a difficult period of putting on appearances, breaking down walls, and coping with the emotional highs and lows of their challenges with infertility.
To put on a funny, charming and moving play about infertility and its impact on those affected is a tall order, but Stuffed works hard to deliver to an exceptionally high standard.
The play is very relatable. Every scene is set somewhere we know – a SouthWestern train, a suburban living room, a sympathetic-looking doctors office. Scenes shift with the moving of chairs and simple, yet clever, colourful additions to them.
It’s very, very funny, without undermining the serious subject matter. The meetings with the various doctors have an element of farce, and there are plenty of hilarious moments amidst the grief and pain. Mood music scenes and the projector show provide additional humour, but also examine the strong bond and bravery of the couple. There’s a genuine joy that runs through the lead players, Faye Maughan as Kim and Ben Scheck as Jack.
As a collective the cast play off one another wonderfully, and every one of them has depth – not just the protagonists. There’s a lovely richness to some of the characters who initially appear to be pitied or included merely for light-hearted entertainment. One of the soaring successes in this play is that not only are these roles brought to life across the board, they are incredibly well written by Lucy Joy Russell and Holly McFarlane.
Co-writer Holly McFarlane, who also performs in the play, is particularly good; she’s almost unrecognisable as she moves from character to character. She’s toe-curlingly awkward in her spot-on portrayal of a Notting Hill yummy mummy, which creates some of the most fantastic awkwardness and drama in the show. Plus she also delivers a lovely turn as Kim’s mother, mixing funny with exceptional tenderness in one of the most poignant scenes of the night (and the scene that sees this reviewer turn teary eyed.)
It’s truly a group effort, both in the casting and the writing. There is strength in that the production doesn’t limit its focus to the internal struggles of the infertile couple. It further shows the external challenges they face in interactions with both friends and strangers within their community. The dialogue is incredibly relatable – it’s rife with the natural feelings of uncertainty we experience around this issue. What’s the right thing to say in this circumstance? Is there a right thing to say?
There’s genuinely a lot to like here. The production company also don’t shy away from the seriousness of the subject, and have aligned with Fertility Network UK to provide additional support and also run a Q & A after one of their shows, which is very commendable.
This may be a difficult show for people experiencing their own infertility battles, but it is important with regards to awareness of the issue and understanding what that can look and feel like for those affected. Job very well done to this cast and crew.
Author: Lucy Joy Russell and Holly McFarlane
Director: Rory Fairbairn
Producer: Red Squash Theatre
Booking Until: 17 March 2018
Box Office: 0333 666 3366
Booking Link: http://www.brockleyjack.co.uk/portfolio/stuffed/