Words: Stephen M Hornby
Imagine trying to decide whether you want children. Then imagine that you are a theatre-maker trying to decide whether you want children, whose partner is also a theatre-maker.
Then imagine that you are a theatre-trying to decide if you want children whose partner is also a theatre-maker and that you are going to make your next piece of theatre about deciding whether you want children.
And you’re going to both co-write, co-direct and be the only two performers in the piece. That’s No Kids.
Nir Paldi and George Mann are the Co-Artistic Directors of Ad Infinitum and the couple making this decision, probably the biggest decision of their lives.
They angst over the environmental impact of adding another human life to our already over-populated planet, vogue to the list of stuff that a new child needs in the first months of its existence, fantasise about how their child will grow up win the Nobel Peace Prize and question their resilience to the lengthy and intrusive process of being approved for adoption.
In short, they ricochet like a pinball through the tropes of middle-class, left-leaning, liberal parenting neurosis. Anyone who is a parent, or has friends who want to be, will recognise this familiar ground.
Paldi and Mann bounce through it mildly amusingly, but they don’t really add much to any of the debates about any of the issues.
These are only explored to the extent to which they affect them as a couple and their decision.
For the piece to really work and transcend a pros and cons list, the audience must connect with and care about the reality of the decision for Paldi and Mann.
They tell us that they are in real life a couple grappling with taking on parenting. But the fact of that per se doesn’t create investment.
The piece is scripted and avoids audience interaction. So, it feels a bit like uncomfortably over-hearing a couple arguing when you’re sat at a nearby table in a restaurant.
You know it’s real but nothing you do is going to have any impact on their situation and it feels a bit self-indulgent that other people are having to overhear it.
Paldi and Mann are both strong performers. They play a range of third characters, sharing each characterisation between them.
It’s a demanding performance decision, and requires a lot of precision but they pull it off.
They can dance. And they can argue. And they can tell stories, though it does occasionally veer a bit towards felling like they are addressing a schools audience more than an adult one.
No Kids is a bit of a niche piece. It explores the options for and dilemmas of gay parenting in an entertaining and imaginative way, but adds little new to the wider debates.