Bridewell Theatre, London – until 2 November 2018
Performed at the Bridewell Theatre in an enticing lunchtime slot, Welcome…? is a ground-breaking play that seeks to challenge the narrative around out-of-work pregnant female actors and is the first theatrical production in the UK to star two pregnant performers.
Written by Lily Lowe-Myers in just three weeks and staring both Lowe-Myers and Robyn Cooper, who are in their third and second trimesters respectively, the play explores two storylines. One sees Lowe-Myers and Cooper planning the play, with comedic effect, while the other involves Rachel Smith (Cooper), a woman who in her own words is “unnoticeable but ready to be reborn”. She meets Doctor Larissa Parker (Lowe-Myers) and embarks on an experiment which will change her life and the world at large.
Skilfully directed by Matt Costain, Welcome…? is a sharp, compelling play which explores the parallels of having a baby and creating a new work of art and it is hard to believe it was written in such a short space of time given its quality and the range of emotions encompassed. At times it’s dark and disturbing; at others it’s light and humorous, notably when the pair are bouncing on birthing balls, eating crisps and pondering the play’s direction.
There is comedy here and moments to tug at the heartstrings too and while a few of the scene changes are a little slow and unnecessary, it doesn’t detract from what is essentially a well-written, intriguing and thought-provoking play.
Both actresses excel in their roles, with Cooper shining as mum-to-be Rachel, who is endearing as she grows attached to her unborn child. Lowe-Myers was particularly brilliant as Rachel’s mum, dry-humoured and frankly scary with a steam iron. Off stage, the pair are life-long friends, have great chemistry and, if the opening scene is anything to go by, a friendly competitive nature. It’s particularly refreshing to see two pregnant actors on stage, with not a fake bump to be seen.
Hatstand Production’s sixth show in as many years, Welcome…? makes for a perfect 50-minute long lunchtime treat. An intelligent, captivating play that will hopefully pave the way for future pregnant actors. In Welcome…? Lowe-Myers says she wants to make a piece of theatre “that pregnant women want to play.” It appears she’s succeeded.