Writers: Ty Autry and Thalia Gonzalez Kane
Director: Melissa Foulger
Written, produced and performed by Ty Autry and Thalia Gonzalez Kane, At Birth blends character-driven comedy with serious drama. In the space of just 60 minutes, we meet best friends Isaac and Anna, each of whom is gay. They have both broken up with their respective partners. Seeking solace in the company of one another they embark on a booze-fuelled evening to forget about their heartbreak.
When Anna asks if Isaac would have sex with her if she were a man (he has sex with all his male friends!) what begins as a joke gradually morphs into something very real. This unexpected drunken one-night stand results in Anna becoming pregnant – something she never even considered a possibility. Starting as an expertly executed situation comedy, this soon opens into a far deeper play that examines parenthood, abortion and women’s rights.
The set is simple – a few wooden blocks, bottles of wine and various baby paraphernalia. The compact space at Barons Court Theatre places us right into the heart of the action much like flies on the wall. Indeed, it does feel as though we are witnessing some profoundly private moments between these two friends, so realistic is their connection with one another. Intimacy Director Monty Davis does a stellar job with the performers showcasing some of the most believable, tender, awkward and authentic sexual scenes you are likely to see on stage. It’s refreshing that Director Melissa Foulger refrains from cutting away or instigating black-outs during these moments.
It is also testament to the incredible chemistry between Autry and Kane. We believe in their friendship. We understand how they are both feeling as they dip their toes cautiously into uncharted waters. Crucially we immediately invest ourselves in them as people and the subsequent journeys they take. This is not only down to the assured, detailed and refined performances but the accessible, delightfully naturalistic dialogue that permeates throughout the succinct script.
As Isaac and Anna debate whether to keep the child – and it’s welcome to have a female character who doesn’t actually want to be a mother – we find ourselves siding with the arguments of both. We can feel Isaac’s excitement at the prospect of being a father while appreciating how conflicted Anna is. She wrestles with the question of when a foetus becomes a human life and despairs over the fact that a person has longer to return an Amazon item than they do to have an abortion. Given the Roe v. Wade controversy in The States, this aspect of the play feels timely and topical with the subject explored sensitively and openly.
The pace is well sustained for most of the production, although it occasionally falls flat for brief periods. Ultimately this is a well-balanced play which never preaches to its audience but rather allows them to form their own ideas with regard to abortion. There is a lot to unpack but we are left enlivened by this engaging and entertaining evening. Brimming with humour but with pertinent and expansive themes rippling through, At Birth is an accomplished piece of new writing deserving of future runs.
Runs until 20 May 2023