The Fertility Show, Manchester Central, 24-25 March 2018
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Theatre Review: The Quiet House

27 June 2016
Appeared in BioNews 857

Gareth Farr's play is not for the faint hearted. It covers the very personal story of a couple's infertility in a way that would leave even the most callous person – I speak for myself here – emotionally fatigued. Farr says his aim in any play is to make an audience feel something, and he certainly achieves that.

The plot centres on a straight couple, Jess (Michelle Bonnard) and Dylan (Oliver Lansley), who have been together since they were 29. Now, at 35, after having tried and failed to conceive naturally, they try IVF.

Five years of writing reviews for BioNews means that I have been an audience member for more plays and films, TV programmes and radio dramas than is probably healthy. What sets The Quiet House apart from so many of those is that it feels like it is a true story. Jess and Dylan are like hundreds of couples I have spoken with at various events and shows over the years.

The Quiet House is almost too realistic, too honest. Lansley and Bonnard's performances are raw and completely unguarded, and clearly resonated deeply with the audience, to such a point that I wonder how anyone who had gone through IVF unsuccessfully could have made it through the hour and 40 minutes and still been able to stand up at the end.

What also gives this play an edge is its phenomenal attention to detail, both in terms of the IVF process and the statistics used in the play. I assume that this is thanks to the guidance of The London Women's Clinic.

The play excellently juxtaposes moments of comedy and tragedy, with much of the humour coming from Dylan's laddish boss Tony (Tom Walker) and neighbour Kim (Allyson Ava-Brown), who is a new mum. The choicest part of the play, though, for me and my subconscious gender bias at least, was a scene focusing on Dylan.

He had hidden the news that he and Jess were undergoing IVF from colleagues at work, even preferring for people to think that Jess had cancer rather than know the truth. In a particularly powerful monologue he despairs that his involvement is boiled down to something he can sum up in three words – 'and I wank'. He feels utterly detached from the whole process. Often in fertility-related dramas the woman's role is the only focal point; this play strikes a necessary balance, showing the effect on both people in the couple.

The show runs at the Park Theatre, in Finsbury Park from 7 to 9 July 2016. It is the centrepiece of the Fertility Fest, a series of events and performances run in collaboration with the London Women's Clinic, Echo, Arts Council England and the Wellcome Trust. It is certainly worth seeing, but I'd advise anyone going along to bring a pack of tissues and pre-order a strong gin and tonic at the bar afterwards.

8 August 2016 - by Rachel Siden 
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25 July 2016 - by Rachel Reeves 
Dear Baby Mine is a Radio 4 drama based on the true story of Conor, who is diagnosed with azoospermia, and the emotional rollercoaster that ensues...
22 June 2015 - by Jane Morris 
It takes an ambitious and courageous playwright to take on the challenging and emotive subject of IVF. Some may even regard it as foolish to delve into a topic that combines science, religion, politics and ethics...
15 June 2015 - by Sarah Pritchard 
How do couples who have undergone unsuccessful cycles of IVF decide when enough is enough? Should people try to set a personal 'limit' of cycles before treatment begins? And what support is out there if treatment doesn't work?...
2 February 2015 - by Daniel Malynn 
'The Empty Frame' by the PSYCHEdelight theatre company was billed as an edgy and controversial play but fails to go into any previously unexplored territory or bring any new perspectives....
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