Writer and Director: Ian Dixon Potter
Of all of Ian Dixon Potter’s monologues that have been released during the last two lockdowns, Infantophobia is the closest to the work of the master of the monologue Alan Bennett whose Talking Heads was revived this year. Like Bennett’s classic series, Infantophobia features an older woman in a Northern town casting aspersions on her neighbours. However, this is where the comparison ends.
What makes Bennett’s monologues so successful is the story that his, usually female, actors relate directly to camera. Rather than one single monologue, Bennett’s actors deliver a set of mini monologues in a sequence of scenes that allow his stories to play out through time: weeks and even months pass in Bennett’s tales. His monologues are dramatic.
Dixon Potter’s newest filmed monologue features a woman who doesn’t want children, but there is no story for her to tell: there is no drama. Instead, in what at times can only be called a rant, Carla confides to the viewer the reasons that she doesn’t like children. Her points are controversial – that children are parasites, that women’s personalities change once they give birth – but they are familiar enough arguments, and they strain to fit the 35-minute running time.
She calls for the word ‘childless’ to be changed. Childless suggests some kind of lack and so Carla proposes that ‘childfree’ should be its replacement, evoking a kind of liberty like ‘handsfree’ or ‘carefree’. She doesn’t want to be pitied for not having kids, and she despairs of the term ‘selfish’ often attached to people who choose not to have children.
If Dixon Potter wants to interrogate society’s rules that everyone be a parent, he makes it complicated, as the spokeswoman for his cause is a sour advocate, always looking down her nose at people, a grimace always available. Julia Faulkner is the best thing about this play, portraying a pinched, opinionated woman, unaware that her views might make her friendfree as well as childfree. It’s just a shame that these observations are not presented as a way to build on Carla’s story. Rather than one dinner party, Carla could tell us about a few, allowing her character to move from her narrow-minded state to a more self-aware position from where she can see the consequences of her actions.
With no narrative drive, Infantophobia is static, and the camera angles that are perhaps used to add variety, only seem clunky and repetitive. Faulkner sits in an armchair throughout, but other shots could have seen her in other places in the room, offering a sense of time passing. In Dixon Potter’s best play so far, A Strange Romance, the main character is seen in various different places relating a story that takes place over weeks and the result created a successful drama. Infantophobia, on the other hand, is a character study where nothing much happens.