[img]http://hits.guardian.co.uk/b/ss/guardiangu-feeds/1/H.20.3/53183?ns=guardian&pageName=Up+the+Duff+%7C+Theatre+review%3AArticle%3A1305413&ch=Stage&c3=Guardian&c4=Theatre%2CStage%2CCulture+section&c6=Alfred+Hickling&c7=09-Nov-16&c8=1305413&c9=Article&c10=Review&c11=Stage&c13=&c25=&c30=content&h2=GU%2FStage%2FTheatre[/img]Theatre Royal, York
Adult education classes can make fertile ground for drama. Trevor Griffiths's Comedians features a group of men who want to master the art of standup; Richard Harris's Stepping Out is about a flat-footed troupe who long to tap. Now Lisa Evans presents a bunch of mums-to-be who simply want to get their babies out as quickly and painlessly as possible.
The antenatal group seems such an obvious source for embarrassing jokes about water retention and incontinence it's surprising no one has tried it before. And Evans's play is for the most part all about plumbing. The comedic potential of a room full of pregnant women with one toilet is duly exploited, and a bucket placed to catch a leaking roof is inevitably pressed into emergency service.
Evans's play fulfils its purpose in delighting a rowdy crowd, many of whom have brought their bumps along. And Damian Cruden's production features an outstanding performance from Sarah Parks that elevates the action above the ordinary. Parks brings her parched, deadpan tones to the role of a midwife suffering a midlife crisis; or rather, a woman in midlife having a midwife crisis, as she buckles under the stress of an official investigation into an unforeseen stillbirth. The monologue in which she relates the experience of every woman's worst fear is a tenderly affecting piece of drama, while her menopausal rages are a sight to behold.
At one point she tears off her uniform, prompting the class to question her sanity. "No, I'm just hot!" she screams in a scene that might, with justification, be described as pant-wettingly funny.
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Guardian: Up the Duff | Theatre review
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