Gay Parenting and the Price of Normality: No Kids @ The Lowry
“Are you sure you want to do this?”: the line that opens the show and resonates throughout the production, no more so than in the first scene. As the pair leap into action akin to a children’s TV show, “Hi we’re real people and we’ve made a play”, I wonder if I’m sure I want to do this…
Luckily my reservations were short-lived as the autobiographical nature of the material works to build intensity and emotional rigour. Ad Infinitum theatre company’s latest show reaches out to its audience and verbalises everything we can’t help but wonder.
Partners George Mann and Nir Paldi bring us No Kids; a presentation of (and hopefully remedy to) their internal battles with potential parenthood. What is the price of “normality”? Children are bad for the environment, finances, careers, social lives, relationships, mental health and freedom... but Nir still wants a family.
From coming out in their respective religious societies to juggling uncertainty and panic, this production zig-zags temporally through multiple cases of “hypothetically ever after”. The pair share the full cast list equally, instantaneously switching roles with one another to create a frenzied, 360-degree perspective. It is this sense of fluctuation and immediacy that captivates the audience so intensely within their back-and-forth.
Despite regular meta-theatrical references to rehearsals and all the effort that went into producing the show, the production flows effortlessly. Carefully clipped movement sequences peek into the actors’ theatrical indulgences without compromising the unencumbered honesty of the script.
We feel as though we’re looking in on a real couple, caught up in their real conversation, and suddenly the simple set has been redesigned into a new imaginative space. The pair have a real talent for capturing our attention away from the practical logistics of stage management, whilst incorporating scene changes as part of the action itself. It’s a large stage for just two men, but they never stand still for a moment. Just two men, armed with two tables and two clothes rails, bring their imaginations and internal struggles to life.
Through a series of hypothetical scenes and skits, the play builds upon a stimulating investigation of the infinite possibilities of parenthood. George and Nir engage in political and personal soul-searching throughout:
Should we adopt? Can we handle the invasive questioning? Can we handle a troubled teen? What about surrogacy? What if she changes her mind? If a surrogate sells her body, is she a prostitute? What if we don’t like our baby? What if they turn into a psychopath? What about our freedom? What about disability? What about the environment?! Will we ever be accepted as gay parents?…
As an audience, we begin to wrestle with the same; we enter the same abyss of uncertainty, populated with concepts we may never have even considered. Understandably, this level of turmoil brings with it a lot of tension. A majority of George and Nir’s exchanges boil over with anger. This creates several jarring moments dispersed throughout the narrative, which couldn’t be further from the peppy, upbeat attitude where it all began.
Yet all this emotional strain is balanced out by some exquisite moments of homage to the universal mother: Madonna. I imagine this is not the first time anyone has reflected their coming out story to Like a Prayer, but the laughter was certainly fresh. For me, the unique rap listing of baby products to Vogue was a feat of eloquent mastery, whilst still making a very valid point: babies need a landfill of crap!
No Kids was originally intended to kick off the 10th anniversary edition of Manchester’s Queer Contact festival. Although illness struck the two-strong cast and led to the performance being postponed, the production still exudes Queer Festival values: it is an eclectic mixture of theatricality, debate and dazzling fashion.
No Kids is thought-provoking, visually engaging, eloquent as hell and scattered with personal touches. The show culminates in an aptly intimate ending: we’re back to the start, having collected a sense of humour along the way, but still no closer to a definitive decision. Is anyone ever truly sure? Are we ever ready to have kids?
No Kids is created and performed by Ad Infinitum for the Manchester Queer Festival by Contact theatre. The show played at The Lowry for one night only. Find out more about the production, the festival and the company online.