Jess and Dylan are a happy couple in their thirties but something is missing in their lives. They have been trying for a baby for five years without any success and Jess’s biological clock is ticking.
When Dylan returns home, Jess is ready for lovemaking, dressed in a seductive nightie. But Dylan is too distraught to think about sex. When trying to buy cigarettes he encountered a dead body and witnessed the callous reaction of some children. Now Dylan has second thoughts about having a child. Aren’t all children petty criminals? Should we add another delinquent? As Dylan skips hysterically around the room recalling his shocking experience, Jess tries in vain to make him focus on what is really important – making a baby. In the end he relents, again without success. Dylan and Jess decide to try IVF.
Directed by Birmingham REP’s Associate Director Tessa Walker with clarity, The Quiet House follows Gareth Farr’s Bruntwood Prize-winning debut, Britannia Waves the Rules and is his second full-length play. Farr describes how childlessness can threaten the most loving relationship. Jess finds that her life has no meaning unless she can pass on her genes. She needs the noise of a child in her house to feel complete. Dylan supports Jess but he finds it hard to organise his work around the requirements of the IVF treatment. He keeps lying to his boss and friend Tony about why he cannot go on business trips that might further his career because he considers this part of his life private and feels embarrassed about his inability to father a child.
The tone of Farr’s play changes between comedy and serious drama, showing what pain and anxiety a couple has to endure when battling with infertility. Jess is pitied by other women, Dylan won’t even talk about it. One would think that infertility should not be considered a personal failure in the 21st century.
At times the production feels too much like an infomercial on IVF treatment, losing itself in details to provide all the relevant information for educating the public. It might have been better to make some cuts to streamline the text and the production, getting rid of the meandering bits.
Michelle Bonnard is touching as Jess who has conversations with her future baby and is longing for her/him so much that it physically hurts her. Oliver Lansley’s nervous Dylan feels useless in Jess’s battle against childlessness. Although Jess involves him as much as possible, he feels left out as he cannot do his part. Allyson Ava-Brown convinces as neighbour Kim who doesn’t enjoy her new role as incontinent mother and Tom Walker gives a vivid portrayal of Dylan’s boss Tony who cannot comprehend why Dylan won’t do anything to further his career. The play is most moving when Jess and Dylan support each other through their worst moments. In one scene Dylan takes Jess in his arms and dances with her to a song named “Let’s Grow Old Together”, which does not comfort Jess but creates a very touching image.
The set design by Ana Inés Jabares-Pita represents a modern ﬂat complete with kitchenette, bedroom and office, held in clinical white as if it was just waiting for a child to turn it upside down.
Reviewed by Carolin Kopplin
The Quiet House is playing at Park Theatre until 9th July
Alongside the production the theatre stages Fertility Fest. For more information go to fertilityfest.com