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Edinburgh Fringe 2018

Re: Production

White Slate Theatre

Genre: Drama, Fringe Theatre, New Writing, Theatre

Venue: Zoo Southside


Low Down

We have two people. Tom and Karen. Drawn from their flipcharts and given flesh by their script we find them in love, her always wanting to be a scientist, him always wanting to be a dad. Her working in IVF, him working towards his dreams. Then they get married. And so young! Then they hit the idea of having children, OK he hits on the idea to complete them they need a child. She is after all working in the delivery of such joy to those unable to naturally deliver their own. What could possibly go wrong… What happens when one gets their dream but the other might not?


White Slate have taken the 40th anniversary of the first IVF baby as a staring point to craft an original, funny, poignant and highly effective tale of how having an IVF scientist in your family guarantees nothing.

Two actors get hold of us as we enter, getting to know who we are so they can draw us into their world. They skilfully draw out all the daft names we might expect to give babies before they settle on their two kids being, ironically called Tom … and Karen…

They then tell us their story of meeting, falling in love, getting married and then… And then… And then… the awkward problem of Tom always wanting to be a dad. Karen, despite being a scientist working in IVF does not quite buy into three being the obvious development of two. It’s a dilemma that questions so many assumptions and because of the background used we are drawn in with those assumptions only to have them challenged and THEN to have them usurped because we go into new assumptions. Surely, she will give in, in the end. Or they will break up? Surely?

Let’s start with the actors, Darryl Green and Jessie Lawrence are so saccharine at the beginning but not overly so, managing to get the right form of enthusiasm and the correct balance of believability that we climb with them to their mountain top. It makes the conflict a massive fall for us all. And we fall. The idea that Karen has not got the same intentions as Tom and the possibility this might be a game changer is sore. We all feel for them. We all feel for him.

The script has caught it just right and the structure from the schmaltzy beginning to the realistic awkwardness onstage is not only tangible, it crackles. There is a real sense of wanting Tom to succeed in Karen giving in and as a father to seven, I understand why I feel like that. To actually sit as the father of five girls and think, I might not be grandad in the midst of a performance on that very subject – that’s pretty powerful…

What turns great performers and a great script onto the next level is the assured and polished direction. The songs, the movement, the choices of set and how each character gets drawn fully and developed to give us expectations whilst at the same time allows us to believe before slapping us on the chops for even daring to be so naïve is the mark of theatre understanding itself and making itself fully understood.

The biggest compliment I can offer is it reminded me of the first performance of Death of a Salesman – I wasn’t there… In the interval one theatre goer was heard to say to her friend, “But what happens if he doesn’t make the sales?” Well I wanted Tom to ask, ask…

Coupled with an assured set of theatre arts that keep us part of the performance I was truly blown away.

The Fringe can be unforgiving to theatre as audiences look for an easy laugh and an easy time of it. Drama can feel left off as the side dish we know does us good but is nowhere near as tasty as what we want to get our teeth into. It is to their credit that White Slate have kept their mettle and developed a great piece of theatre to offer that avoids cliché and gives a really surprising ending. With such doom and gloom everywhere, the nature of the human condition gets a wonderful boost and it is done with confidence and an amazingly well put together drama that you should truly get your teeth into. So, go and find out if he does ask, ask and what she answers, answers…