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Michelle Bonnard as Jess. Pictures: Graeme Braidwood

The Quiet House

Birmingham Rep, Door

*****

FOR many people, having a baby seems like a straight forward plan. For the couple Jess and Dylan, it is not as easy as they previously thought.

With an astonishingly powerful script by Gareth Farr and unbelievable performances from the cast, Tessa Walker directs The Quiet House, which looks into the unseen and unspoken truth about the hardships of trying to conceive.

This play is one of a kind. As a young married couple, the next natural step is the want to start a family. Jess and Dylan believe that starting a family is a need, rather than a mere desire.

On the surface, Farr presents us with the story of Jess and Dylan’s’ relationship. They are a typical couple in their Thirties, both with stable jobs and a decent home. This set up looks promising for the ambitious couple and both are extremely happy together.

One small addition to their established life is missing and is probably the most important thing that would complete their lives. This play shows us that we do not think about the struggles of infertility until the moment strikes. Within Farr’s writing, we see the journey of IVF treatment in almost real-time action. Each scene creates an eye-opening snapshot of Jess and Dylan’s hope at trying alternative measures in creating a family and the emotional response that comes with it.

The audience see Jess and Dylan’s experience as a couple trying to conceive through short scenes, passing through the time of taking fertility treatment. UndJess and Dylanerneath is a situation that is not easy to bring to the surface. Infertility is a subject that renders to be a hardship for anyone trying for a family. Jess’ life depends upon giving birth. She talks out loud to the child that she is desperate to have and knows that the love of her husband Dylan is just not enough.

Michelle Bonnard as Jess and Oliver Lansley as Dylan

Farr does well to capture the individual response of each character of the four-hander play. Jess and Dylan are a team; however we see how fertility treatment sparks incredibly different emotional reactions within them both. In the character of Dylan, Farr has created a conflict of the masculine mind, giving the suggestion that Dylan feels that he has failed in his duty as a man.

This of course has an effect on his work life and the desire to keep the truth away from his colleague and friend Tony. It indeed has disastrous emotional consequences, especially when Dylan receives offers to work in Spain on multiple occasions.

The need to have a child for Jess is rooted within her blood. Her bravery of taking the fertility treatment is laid out before us and her physical pain from taking daily injections is definitely eye-opening. Within the character of Jess, we see a heavy sacrifice purely for the love of a child. Jess’ emotional connection is at times heart-breaking as she desperately reaches out to Dylan to help her in her in her own needs.

Whilst Jess and Dylan live from one day to the next and look for the smallest glimmer of positivity, their neighbour, Kim, who lives in the flat above, struggles with a new-born of her own. Of course this close situation that is nobody’s fault breeds a certain conflict, in that what Jess and Dylan want is always under their nose, but yet so far away.

Farr is incredibly sensitive in his conviction of telling a story of such importance. What makes this production truly outstanding are the performances from the cast. Michelle Bonnard and Oliver Lansley give a wonderfully truthful portrayal as the couple which allows us to be touched and feel as deeply as they do on stage.

Bonnard is breath taking as Jess and her performance is not to be missed. Her essence of showing a hopeful mother, bound by the conflict of natural statistics gives the audience a whirlwind of emotions to look at and contemplate.

Lansley as Dylan is the perfect partner for Bonnard. Together they show a beautiful and loving relationship that others would hope to achieve, but within it, Lansley and Bonnard do well to create the struggles that give way to the darkest moments. The story is helped fantastically with Allyson Ava-Brown’s strong portrayal of their neighbour Kim and Tom Walker’s depiction of Tony, the cheeky-chappy boss of Dylan.

Farr’s story is as intimate as it is passionate. Through the tragedies of life, he celebrates love and shows the power of what the love between two people can overcome with a commitment to each other and the future. It ends with a cliff-hanger, giving the audience just a sense of the hope the Jess and Dylan must possess in every single moment. To 04-06-16

Elizabeth Halpin

01-06-16

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