Why should a pregnant actor not only have a hugely increased chance of losing work opportunities following giving birth – but also in the months leading up to it, as they become bigger and bigger bellied? In an age when Scarlett Johansen et al are having millions spent on them to CGI-out a baby bump – why is it that having a pregnant actor appear on stage or screen is such an unusual occurrence? Actor, writer and creator, Clare Pointing, brings her excellent one woman play With Child to the Pleasance Courtyard to provoke us to reflect on this very question.
The opportunity to do so is revealed in a classic manner, a well-trodden path of talking heads style monologues a la Alan Bennett. However, just because the template has been used before doesn’t devalue the opportunity for the quality of work that can be produced; and what a quality we get. The writing is exceptional, brimming with pathos and there are some memorable lines. Pointing gives us six uniquely different women, each pregnant with none but the final character even giving but the slightest nod (in the form of a ravenous appetite or the occasional back twinge) to they fact that they are so. They are pulled from all corners, classes and suburbs of the UK to give us a well-rounded (pun intended – sorry-not-sorry!) portrayal of the women of 2019.
You know these people; we all do. You have had the pleasure, and sometimes displeasure, of their company. You will have grinned as they brought forth their full-bodied (still not sorry) and often hilarious stories, you may have cringed behind a hand as they blithely spout idioms of bigotry and vicious ignorance in the extreme. One thing remains true – these women are a depiction of the complexity of life. So truthful in fact that With Child could easily be mistaken for a verbatim piece. Such is the honest capture of the way in which people actually speak. It helps, of course, that the actor then delivering the performance is also outstanding. Rendering each role with a distinct accent, rhythm and tonal undercurrent. The performance really is brilliant as she brings joy, play and inner life to each of them.
Hilarious, touching and a real slice of life, With Child is well worth your money.