Eternity Playhouse, July 1
“How could there not be a baby? With all that love?”
So says Bill in Every Second, a new Australian play by Vanessa Bates about two couples struggling to conceive.
Bill (Glenn Hazeldine) and Jen (Georgina Symes) decide to try IVF and stay strong through the ordeal. Their younger friends Meg (Julia Ohannessian) and Tim (Simon Corfield) are finding their quest for a baby more stressful.
Meg opts for natural therapies but is becoming very anxious. Tim is heartily sick of vile-tasting herbal remedies and sex becoming a chore. (There are several candid representations of sex and fertility testing, just so you know.)
Bates’s writing is pared back, heightened and very funny at times. She creates believable characters but needs to explore their situation in greater emotional depth if we are to be moved by their plight. Desperately wanting a child and not being able to have one is emotionally devastating for many people and Bates goes some way to capturing that. But it would be interesting if she were to analyse why they want a child so desperately. Is it just the hormonal urge or something else?
Certain things in the script (a hit-and-run accident, a plea to a dead friend, an extramarital fling) feel unresolved and rather cursorily dealt with, while a sperm ballet (a nod, presumably, to the sperm scene in Woody Allen’s film Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex) sits oddly and isn’t that funny.
That said, Shannon Murphy directs a terrific, nifty, inventive production for Darlinghurst Theatre Company, with strong performances from all four actors. Andy McDonell’s abstract set – a spiral ramp around a womb-like core – works extremely well.
One in 33 Australian babies are conceived via IVF so Bates has tuned into a common experience. For the drama to resonant more broadly, she could usefully expand her story and deepen its emotional layers.
Every Second plays at the Eternity Playhouse in Darlinghurst until July 27. Bookings: www.darlinghursttheatre.com
A version of this review appeared in the Sunday Telegraph on July 13