Jess and Dylan are married 5 years and their attempts to have a child have been unsuccessful so far. They will have to resort to cold science and petri dishes. They will have to fight for their children even before they are born, if they are even to be born at all. A box with the medication for their fertility treatment is delivered and the story unravels from there.
Gareth Farr has written a play that does its best to vividly illustrate as many of the aspects of having difficulty to conceive as he could fit into 90min. The scheduled, un-erotic sex; the hope and optimism in stark contrast to the devastation of failure; the stigma as well as the shame, helplessness and pity the couples face; not to mention the strain on their relationship.
Glimpses of relaxed domesticity are overshadowed by the ritual of injections and the silences waiting for the clinic to call or the egg timer to ring for the result of the dreaded pregnancy test. Jess, speaks to the images of her unborn children, begging and cajoling them into existence, when she is alone. Hates people pitying and guessing her infertility. Dylan feels “seedless as a jaffa”, and refuses to reveal their problem to anyone around them, his contribution to the matter all in all comes down to “just a…wank”. Jess’s overwhelming need to have a child and hear the “noise missing from this house… The quiet deafens her.”, shocks and unnerves Dylan just as much as her admittance that just them just isn’t enough.
Yes, it does feel like a bit like a parade of scenes purposefully written just to elucidate the different aspects of the issue and could use a bit of fine-tuning. Yes, the parts of the upstairs neighbour and harassed new mother Vicky as well as Dylan’s yuppie and irritating boss are underdeveloped, but they work well enough and help break the tension. Yes, Jess is portrayed more one-dimensionally, through her infertility, while Dylan is allowed a thriving professional life. Yes, options such as surrogacy or adoption are not even remotely mentioned.
Despite all that The Quiet House is not depressing; it is bittersweet, sincere and touching sprinkled with humour. The acting all-round is excellent, the dialogues ring true and the occasional sniffles and overall stillness attest to the performance’s ability to grip the audience and pull at our heartstrings.
- By Gareth Farr
- Directed by Tessa Walker
- Production: Echo Presents, Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Park Theatre
- Cast includes: Allyson Ava-Brown, Michelle Bonnard, Oliver Lansley, Tom Walker
- Park Theatre, London
- Until 9 July 2016
- Review by Katerina Yannouli
- 10 June 2016