22/08/2012 - 24/08/2012
This summer Shaky Isles, as part of the Camden Fringe, present the premiere of WAITING ROOM which explores the sorrow – and the comedy – of miscarriage.
“Like scenes from Alien. Any of the four films will do. Seriously though… it’s actually really hard to get born.”
Amanda and Richard desperately want a baby, Scarlett is already losing hers. A bittersweet play about the sorrows – and the comedies – of miscarriage. Physical, farcical, and honest, WAITING ROOM looks at the futures we dream and at how we summon the courage to keep going when those dreams don’t turn out the way we’d imagined.
Waiting Room interweaves three people’s stories’, their laughter, tears, frustration, and anger. The play tells it’s story physically, musically, and at times with slap-stick farce, and quiet soundscape to draw you in. Miscarriage being a very common occurrence in many women’s lives’, Waiting Room delves deeper to understand and accept the normality of such a loss. And what happens when the hope of having a family is gone.
Waiting Room’s director, Rosella Hart, describes Deakin’s new play as, “Sad. Lovely. Poignant. And surprisingly funny.”
Lord Stanley Pub
22 August at 7pm until 24 August
Theatre Collection above the Lord Stanley Pub
51 Camden Park Road, London NW1 9BH
Performed by Jonathan Bidgood, Eleanor Lawrence, and Amy Straker
Inventive production delivers compassionate insights
Review by James Hadley 24th Aug 2012
Slightly contrary to usual reviewing practice, I attended the preview performance of Shaky Isles’ Waiting Room – and under the house lights due to a technical problem with this tiny pub theatre’s lighting resources. It’s very much a testament to the well-judged direction of Rosella Hart and Connie Brice, and to the focussed script of Emma Deakin, that the lack of theatrical lighting didn’t detract from the audience being pulled in close by this intimate drama of miscarriage.
Shaky Isles is London’s resident New Zealand theatre company, helmed by actor Emma Deakin since its foundation in 2006. Usually Emma is to be found onstage within Shaky Isles’ productions; Waiting Room is her first time as playwright.
It’s not an easy sell: a play about the experience of miscarriage. Still not a topic that’s widely discussed. Yet there’s a lightness of touch here: irony and humour, and a commendable resistance from indulging in easy sentimentality given the emotional weight of the subject matter. Deakin shows a mature balance of compassion and restraint in her well observed writing, which is well matched by recent mother Rosella Hart’s under-stated and sensitive direction, assisted by Connie Brice.
The play juxtaposes the experiences of two miscarriages. Camden-based, late 30-somethings couple Amanda and Richard are desperate to start a family, and after six years of trying, here they are in a hospital waiting room experiencing their third consecutive miscarriage. Waiting nearby is single New Zealander Scarlett – all too far from home and family when it comes to experiencing her first (unplanned) pregnancy, and now her first experience of a miscarriage.
It says everything of the restraint of the script that the single would-be-mother-to-be, and the expectant couple share a waiting room in one scene but never speak to each other. We follow their stories through a range of settings, with well-judged focus on domestic details and practical, situational realities – always with quiet compassionate observation. We are left to draw comparisons between their parallel hopes and losses.
It’s a rich juxtaposition: the unplanned pregnancy of a woman who then felt adamant about following through and having this baby that had chosen her, regardless of the father now being an ex-lover; and the loving couple who are so ready to be parents together, but are now questioning whether it will ever happen and whether they can go through the pain of trying again.
The three actors realise their roles with integrity. There’s a believable tenderness to the couple portrayed by Miriam Stanislaus and Jonathan Bidgood; comfortable familiarity which underscores the sense that they would make a great family – if they could. And the more dynamic energy of the younger single female played by Amy Straker is the perfect foil. Full of Kiwi spirit, she observes her experiences as something of an adventure, yet at the same time the actor conveys shades of vulnerability behind Scarlett’s confident exterior.
We’re told in the programme that the writer was performing children’s theatre in Barcelona when writing the script, and the levity and energy of this working dynamic rubbed off on the play. There’s an inventiveness to the production, at its best in the heightened, TV game show scenes, where Amanda and Richard are contestants playing ‘Prefix’. Straker is a delightfully superficial TV host in these scenes, and they work a charm as a way of lightening the texture of the play.
A stylised monologue delivered in time to a metronome in another section of the play is perhaps a little more inventiveness than sits cohesively within the wider tone of the play.
What sticks in the memory afterwards is the tired quietness of the devastated couple driving home after the news of the miscarriage, talking about what to have for dinner. And the young woman negotiating the practicalities and indignities of producing and presenting a urine sample. We experience the insensitivities of over-worked NHS nursing staff, and are reminded of the frightening unpredictability of some of the body’s natural processes.
These characters seem to find a mature acceptance that there isn’t a reason or moral to these events. And perhaps that’s why the play feels enlightening rather than depressing. The heart of the show is its compassionate insights into the stark realities of miscarriage, as if seen under the fluorescent lights of a hospital waiting room: its disappointments seen through the grace and clarity of acceptance.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer