Baby, Drayton Arms Theatre

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by Amy Toledano

Baby by MKEC Productions follows a year in the life of three couples as they experience the world of childbirth, from their struggles with conception, to difficulties in their relationships and within themselves as individuals. This talented cast does their best with this dated book and ideas, and attempts to bring the 1983 Broadway hit into the 21st century.

The most important thing is that the score, by all accounts, is wonderful. With an almost Sondheim-esque style, its catchy ensemble pieces, quirky duets and beautiful ballads are performed by the actors with great energy and pipes. It absolutely knock the socks of the audience. Musical Director Kieran Stallard does a lovely job of mastering this intricate score, and leads the cast in creating a sound that fills the space and reverberates around the room.

While this cast has vocals that are powerful and expressive, a lot of them struggle to convey the emotional depth of characters going through some extremely traumatic experiences. Also, there is not a lot of chemistry between couples so we only really get a one-dimensional view. With such a large number of songs and opportunities for the actors to develop emotional gravitas, it is sad that this is not really the case.

The saving grace however, comes from Laurel Dougall and Stuart Scott who shine as Pam and Nick Sakarian. In particular, Dougall absolutely crackles as a woman whose greatest ambition is to be a mother. The colour and energy of her performance devastates the audience as pressure from her husband and the expectation of her family and friends are too much for her in her attempts to conceive.

The show itself is the thing that is hard to swallow. With an almost completely white cast and all female characters seeming to only function as a fulfilment of the needs of their male counterparts, it is sad that the company feels the need to put on such a show. The limited freedom these women have in the decisions over their own bodies is uncomfortable and becomes more so as the show goes on. In a time where we are finally beginning to champion women and their rights perhaps a revamped version of this show with a more diverse cast, championing stories that are more than the straight white couples we have seen time and time again, would leave a more positive impact on the audience.

Baby runs through 9 November.

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