My Review: Birthday, Royal Court Theatre, 25 June


Birthday is a hilarious 90-minute rollercoaster of what one would imagine if men were able to carry and give birth to a baby.

Like an extended version of ‘One Born Every Minute’*, Joe Penhall’s new play portrays the ups and downs of expected parents Ed (Stephen Mangan) and Lisa (Lisa Dillon) but with a wicked twist.

In this funny parallel world or future, Ed has decided to conceive their second child after the complication Lisa suffered delivering their first. With gender roles reserved, Ed jokes he is “Too Posh to Push” as he awaits to have a C-Section*, while he waits and is forgotten by the nurses and consultants he hilariously portrays the woes and frustrations of an expected mother, he complains of feeling unattractive and how Lisa doesn’t understand him – ‘It’s so different for men’, and how ‘They’ didn’t tell him what to really expect.

Lisa on the other hand having gone through a traumatic time giving birth, effortlessly switches roles and is the anxious Father (Mother) pacing up and down and being attentive, but also loving the fact that she is the bread winner and is happy to sit in an office with a Riverview and have people tell her how intelligent she is, than be a at home mother.

Expected parents Ed (Stephen Mangan) and Lisa (Lisa Dillion)
Expected parents Ed (Stephen Mangan) and Lisa (Lisa Dillon) (C) Royal Court Theatre

Mangan and Dillon bounce off each other with Mangan undoubtedly stealing the show with his comical timing and expressions, he pulls of being a nervous expected Mother … I mean Dad … just a bit too well, to the extent the guy next to me was winching at the scene when Midwife Joyce played by Llewella Gideon tries to break his ‘waters’.

Though hilarious in parts there are few holes, in Penhall’s funny parallel world/future where ‘They’ have managed to find a way for men to have a child but hospitals still put their patients at risk with superbugs and dodgy equipment because the NHS is still under funded and staffed.

Also Gideon and Louise Brealey (Junior Doctor Natasha) are really good at what they are given but are wasted in their roles and are used as comical punch bags for Ed and Lisa (Gideon is a comical genius whom I remember from ‘The Real McCoy’ back in the day).

Midwife Joyce (Llewella Gideon) and Ed (Stephen Mangan) (C) Royal Court Theatre
Midwife Joyce (Llewella Gideon) and Ed (Stephen Mangan) (C) Royal Court Theatre

With a few holes but funnier than the 90’s Arnie and DeVito film ‘Junior’, this is 90 minutes of pure laughter that isn’t to be taken too seriously as clearly if men were able to give birth they wouldn’t be able to cope!!

Rating: 6.5/10
Royal Court Theatre on till 4 August

*I’m too scared to watch a full episode!
**How else would you imagine the baby to come out


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