The King’s Arms, Salford
Audiences may experience a sense of déjà vu with Sadie Hasler’s Pramkicker. The format of two sisters debating their place in the world using profanity and consuming a far bit of booze is familiar from the better-known Fleabag. However, as Hasler’s play is some years old, it goes to show that two writers can have similar ideas and both produce works of quality.
Jude (Coral Sinclair), having become involved in an altercation in a coffee shop and kicked a pram, has to attend anger management classes to avoid more severe consequences. Her younger sister Susie (Tilly Sutcliffe) goes along to lend moral support and, possibly, hold Jude in check. Yet, as the sisters discuss the reasons for Jude’s outburst, secrets and wider issues emerge.
Pramkicker begins as a comedy before the tone becomes more serious as the sisters realise they may have more significant issues to consider than Jude’s outburst. The issue of how women value themselves and determine their place in a culture where being a mother remains a defining role is, however, treated in a light, if exasperated, tone. Jude has known since her teenage years she did not want children and describes herself as the Edith Piaf of the empty womb, having no regrets. Her frustration at encountering a woman who regards herself as somehow superior due to having had children is beautifully described. Hasler combines images that do not really fit together to great comic effect. A therapist proclaims she has five degrees and an iguana and Jude justifies shoving jam in a woman’s face on the grounds it was organic.
Coral Sinclair is a vulnerable Jude concealing disturbing secrets behind a surly, sarcastic exterior. It is a fine performance and would be the pivotal role in most plays. However, Tilly Sutcliffe develops Susie in a surprising manner, moving from an eager to please, somewhat vague attitude to draw out the conflicting emotions she is trying to reconcile in a show-stopping closing monologue. Sutcliffe also enacts the various supporting characters with a crowd-pleasing turn as a nervous homemaker desperately denying she has anger issues while clearly wanting to murder her husband.
Sinclair and Sutcliffe are convincing sisters facilitated by the warm atmosphere developed by director John-Mark Reid with the characters lounging on beanbags or chatting in pubs as they try to resolve their issues. The cast behave like children in a playground dispute—flicking, poking and pulling hair—to demonstrate the childish nature of the argument in the coffee bar. Crucially, however, the mood is affectionate and familial between the sisters especially as they recreate a sequence from Dirty Dancing in a way that manages to avoid sentimentality.
Pramkicker tackles heavy issues in a light, refreshing manner, its success very much dependent on a pair of appealing performances that ensure it is possible to like characters who, on first appearance, do not seem that sympathetic. A feature of the 2019 GM Fringe is the number of companies from outside of the region making their first visit. A return appearance from Postcard Theatre would be welcome.
Reviewer: David Cunningham