Theatre: Birthday at the Royal Court

So I interviewed Stephen Mangan in a grotty cafe in north London. (Was the cafe the PR’s choice or Mangan’s? Not his, I’m sure. He is too classy. Unless it was a double bluff. He drank builder’s tea and was utterly charming.) Anyway. Mangan was in rehearsals for Birthday, a new play for the Royal Court by Joe Penhall, where he plays a pregnant man in hospital, about to give birth. By the time we had met the play had not opened so I had to read it instead of actually seeing it. Which was an interesting experience — during the interview I got the sense that both of us really like the play but we were both in the position of not knowing whether it would actually work on stage because it had not actually been staged yet. I’m seeing it in July.

Afterwards I talked to the playwright Joe Penhall who admitted that he felt uncomfortable about writing about childbirth as a man. But also appeared to suggest that women are wimping out when it comes to covering life-and-death issues in the theatre: “It crossed my mind that someone is bound to accuse me of robbing a woman of her chance to tell her story. But it’s a free country. You can buy computers in shops and get to work on them. Someone is bound to pop up and say, ‘What’s wrong with a woman going through labour?’ But the theatre is a complex art form and you have to do things to circumvent convention. If you want to see a woman going through labour? It’s on TV every night.” Brutal. Buy a computer, woman playwrights!

 Royal Court pic by Oxyman. Birthday pic by ArtisticZen.


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