Bundle of Joy? review: First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage, and Then What?
**** 4 STARS
A newly married couple, the pressure to have a baby, the search for something more. When a newly married couple start the process to get pregnant, they soon start to question their own compatibility and wants and desires. With the most recent overturning of Roe v. Wade in the USA, this play has come at a time that is most needed. XX (Played by Jessica Garton) feels the pressure of conceiving however to her husband XY (played by Freddie Tuson) he gaslights and patronises her into thinking that not only is XX overthinking and being paranoid, but having a baby is not a big deal. It's not a big deal to him because he cannot see the undertones and looks from family and society when they see a married childless woman. Questions are immediately raised of XY's commitment to understanding his wife and her needs. For the first half of the play, I couldn't stand XY! I thought he was wildly smug and pretentious, in comparison to XX they appeared to be polar opposites from the beginning. However, a testament to Tuson's acting that the intended effect he was supposed to have on the audience worked very well. Garton is an actress to watch in the future, as XX she played the role superbly. The shift in her attitude towards not only the prospect of having a baby but also her relationship was so well acted, I was convinced I was watching a couple in real time act out their frustrations on stage.
Written by the gifted Imogen Chillington, the humour is spot on and Tuson and Garton's ability to pick up on those cues and deliver to the audience with flair, took the edge off the play and helped to make the uncomfortable topic easy to follow. Through the highs and lows, the pain is felt throughout the audience. The stage design was simultaneously both beautiful and haunting, and designer Emily Puddephatt did an absolutely fantastic job of using the stage to the actors advantage. Everything was accounted for and I really appreciated the ways in which the detail was so specific, even down to the flowers on the table that started to wilt as the play reaches its climax.
For this play to be Chillington's debut at the fringe is incredibly impressive and she is a writer to watch in the future, I'm looking forward to seeing what she produces next! Bundle of Joy? is a real and honest depiction of two people who shouldn't be together, but find out through navigating one of the most traumatic and emotional experiences a person who wants a baby can encounter. At the end, I saw two audience members crying - the impact of a woman's choice to choose is one that is so sacred and this play felt very necessary and important.
XX - Jessica Garton
XY - Freddie Tuson
Writer - Imogen Chillington
Director - Masie Bagley
Assistant Director - Laurie Bayley-Higgins
Designer - Emily Puddephatt
Producer - Katie Tuson