Founded by Polly Cohen, a fifth year medical student, and Hayley Russell, a recent UCL graduate, Cohrus Theatre grace the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with Parentcraft, a short play by Stephen Smith.
Set entirely in a room of a 1990’s NHS hospital, four expectant mothers and one overbearing father await their weekly Parentcraft class. The midwife who is to supervise the antenatal session is nowhere to be found, and the unexpected delay generates an outbreak of awkward British humour. Differences in class and background makes for a series of unsettling discussions (and at times, astute comedy), as the five are confronted with their own and one another’s prejudices. A thought-provoking revelation concludes the one-act production, and the group go their separate ways, anticipating better luck for the following meeting.
Informative posters plaster a board propped up on a table cluttered with leaflets, books on pregnancy, a CD-Player, and a yoga mat. An exercise ball lurks underneath, adjacent to a cluster of chairs. The stage feels bare and lacklustre, and is unfortunately small, which denies the actors a comfortable performance.
Uneasy couple Derek and Susie (played by Jack Tivey and Hansy Shore) do well to communicate their strained marriage, and Alisha Iyer gives an authentic performance as an Inland Revenue employee, demonstrating obvious artistic capabilities. However, the energy of the troupe is low from the start, which impacts on the delivery of their lines and as such, the accessibility of Smith’s comedy.
Cohen’s simple blocking lead to much of the action becoming stationary, which, in turn, gave little visual stimuli for the audience. This wooden arrangement of the cast only stifled their spirit further, and became another obstacle for them to contend with. The end result feels more like a school assembly on safe sex, and so the arrival of what would have been a surprising conclusion lacked gravity, and appeared rather mundane.
Cohrus Theatre do not lack the ability to improve this production. Smith’s script is evidently full of competent one-liners and gags, just the crew require an injection of life and vitality to get it off the ground. Parentcraft may have fallen short, but the experience was not altogether unenjoyable.
Parentcraft is playing at the Royal Society of Edinburgh until August 21. For more information and tickets, see www.tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on#q=%22Parentcraft%20%22