Kicking and Screaming

Devised by the company
Tangled Feet
Arts Centre Washington

Kicking and Screaming

When I got married (many decades ago—but enough of that!) we decided that we didn't want to have children and I have to say that watching Tangled Feet's Kicking and Screaming did not make me regret that decision.

The show's publicity says, "Like a tiny bomb exploding in the middle of your life, the baby arrives—and nothing will ever be the same again," and goes on to ask, "How do we adjust—and what happens if we don't?"

To judge by the audience response as two couples struggle to deal with the imminent arrival of a baby and their first year of parenthood, Tangled Feet has got it right. There was much laughter tinged with... well, something else. Ruefulness? Possibly. It's difficult to say—a sort of bitter sweetness. Parenthood would seem to be—as the play suggests—something of a mixed blessing.

The two couples are Natasha (Sara Templeman) and Jay (Mickey Cochrane) whom we first see moving in together because of Natasha's pregnancy, and Ronnie (Hannah Gittos) and Sam (Simon Carrol Jones) who are in the throes of preparing for baby's arrival by putting together an Ikea cot (but not the one that Ronnie wanted). The one room serves as both of their homes and there are times when they are on stage simultaneously but they are always unaware of each other—the couples inhabit their own separate worlds.

They are linked by the ever-present figure of the Midwife (Laura Mugridge) who is a kind of Chorus and who also takes on other roles as required—including, at one point, one of the babies at meal time.

As well as showing us how parenthood changes lives, the play also illustrates how it changes relationships, for its effects on the two couples are very different. I did feel that the changing relationship effect was under-developed with most of the focus being on the way the arrival of a baby impacts upon everyday life of the parents. Perhaps there are actually two plays here?

Kicking and Screaming uses text, music (some played on children's instruments) and physical theatre, and the set, designed by Rhys Jarman—which, to begin with, seems to be a conventional representation of a living room—can be partially dismantled and reconfigured.

The structure is episodic, taking the experience of becoming a parent step by step, swapping focus from one household to the other, sometimes linked by comments from the Midwife, interspersed with whole-company music or physical theatre. On the opening night this led to a sameness of pace but I suspect that once the play is bedded in, then a more varied dynamic will emerge.

The play will visit eight more north east venues, ending its run on 22 March. Tour details are in our news story.

Reviewer: Peter Lathan