No Kids - The Tobacco Factory

No Kids - The Tobacco Factory

‘We know what we are, but know not what we may be’ Act IV, Scene V, Hamlet

Nir Paldi and George Mann are a real-life couple seeking to reach a mutual conclusion on the difficult decision of whether they should introduce children into their family together. As co-writers, co-directors and performers, they use No Kids as a platform to envision their life as parents and the joys and challenges that could emerge from raising a child. This innovative piece is rather meta in nature, as the couple blend their roles as actors and creators for whom the central question of this imaginative performance represents a pressing reality. The audience does not feel intrusive in this personal and intimate decision making process, but rather the fourth wall is shattered, merging the audience into the play by having them perform an intrinsic role in the couple’s mental exploration of their imagined life as ‘daddy’ and ‘abba.’

It is not just the relationship between the two actors that makes this play so unique in nature: rather the performance encapsulates multiple styles and forms, constantly surprising the audience with curve-balls such as a Madonna musical number and flashback to attempted conversion therapy by a rather camp priest! While the theme and dialogue of the play are grounded in realism, this is effectively contrasted by the powerful physical theatre employed throughout and the moments of high comedy that permeate the couple’s more serious weighing of the costs and benefits of parenthood. The two actors skilfully adopt multiple roles throughout the play, transforming into outward forces advising their decision and even adopting the part of their imagined son in the future. The shifting characterisation maintains high energy throughout and powerfully represents their fears of parenthood coming to life.

The play opens with an idealised dream sequence of the happy family, with a son who will grow up to travel the world, graduate Oxbridge and meet the woman of his dreams. Yet this shining vision is quickly tarnished as the couple are forced to consider the not-always-so-glamorous reality of parenthood. The usual fears of family life are explored, such as raising a child who turns out ‘bad’, a loss of love and intimacy between the couple and even the environmental implications of bringing a new child into an already over-populated world. Yet extra challenges arise for the couple as same-sex parents who are forced to go down the less conventional routes of adoption or surrogacy. Questions emerge of whether a maternal influence is necessary for the development of a child and if the role of grandmother and female friends can adequately replace the mother figure. While the couple dread the potential homophobic comments and judgement of outside forces, their greatest fear is to be rejected by a son who loathes the stigma associated with being raised by two dads. One of the most emotive moments in the play is Nir’s account of the homophobic bullying that he experienced in his adolescence. With each act of verbal and physical violence enacted upon him that he describes, George dresses him in increasingly feminine and flamboyant apparel, depicting his growing sense of vulnerability and exposure. Finally, when crowned with a tiara, he claims “I don’t want to be treated that way in my own home.”

No Kids runs in The Tobacco Factory Theatre until the 9th March and I thoroughly recommend a trip to see this unique piece (and fall in love with Nir and George!) while you can. With a stunning blend of comedy and pathos, the play manages to have the audience in stitches of laughter while also offering a profound insight into the challenges of raising a child, particularly in a non-conventional family dynamic. While positive progress has taken place in recent years towards recognition of the loving and supportive home that same-sex couples can offer to a child, it is evident that stigma in society still presents a barrier in many LGBTQ couples’ decision of whether to have children. As George quite aptly expresses it, “straight people don’t own parenthood.”

*****

Five stars

Eve Coleman

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