One Last Push, Salisbury Playhouse

ARE you a devoted Call the Midwife fan? If so, you’ll know all there is to know about bringing babies into the world in the 1960s, and you’ll know how Dr Turner’s wife Shelagh started her life in Poplar as Sister Bernadette, and is now an experienced midwife in the team.

So if you were staging a play about childbirth, who would be more ideal than the actress who plays Shelagh for the leading role. So it is that Laura Main is on stage at Salisbury Playhouse as Jen, a high-flying financial manager who is having a baby. Or is it her husband Mark (Sam Alexander) who is having the baby? It’s not like it was in those days at Nonnatus House, when fathers took very little part in the birth time.

Now Mark, a very disenchanted supply teacher who is giving up his job to be a full-time father once the sprog is born, is actively involved in every aspect of the birthing plans, and he’s even had himself tested for OCD to ensure that his meticulous planning isn’t a threat to the baby!

Broadchurch writer and Dr Who showrunner Chris Chibnall and his wife have had a home-delivered baby, and Chris is in the early stages of a planned series of plays about the “big events of life”, so where better to open the latest, One Last Push, than Salisbury, where his Worst Wedding Ever made its very successful debut?

One Last Push, on until 9th March, is a hilarious old-style farce brought up to date into the 2020s, with all their concerns and preoccupations. Jen is pumping up the plastic birthing pool, but it’s taking forever, and the newly-ordered electric pump has arrived with a faulty adaptor. Mark is testing out Plan B, an emergency trip to the hospital. But the app-sourced estimated time from home to hospital hasn’t taken the traffic, the roadworks or the car park and its new cash-only meters into account. Who has enough coins for a ten hour labour at £4.80 an hour these days, and where would you get it, anyway?

Into this scene of domestic preparation comes Dave (James Gaddas), a would-be-general-handyman who has promised to sort the plumbing and electrics in the kitchen of the new flat. Then there is urban guerilla and conspiracy theorist Paul (David Partridge), owner of the house, upstairs resident and recent seller of the flat to Jen and Mark. And of course Jen’s mother (a beautifully timed performance by Sherry Baines), and Dave’s much much younger girlfriend Alize (aka The Squeeze) played with abandon by Valerie Antwi.

The stage is set for a less-than-peaceful arrival for the baby. If it can go wrong, it does. If it can’t go wrong, it will anyway. And then of course there is the possibility of animalis ex machina.

Gareth Machin directs with his usual flair, and the technical team does a wonderful job, even mounting huge mobile phones at the sides of the stage so you can read the messages as though they were sur-titles.

It’s a very funny play, performed by a perfect cast. It’s only a pity that Wiltshire Creative decided on using the “generic” publicity photograph taken months ago, of a “husband and pregnant wife” for two big programme images, rather than getting Laura Main and Mark Alexander for a photoshoot. It doesn’t take that long to print a programme.

Photographs by Craig Fuller


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