A blast of The Clash’s “I Fought the Law”, and two women stride onto the stage from the back of the room. It’s a great opening. Jude is bristling with defiance – but she’s at anger management classes, having got into a fight with an exceptionally irritating mother whose children were getting in the way at a coffee shop. As the title suggests, she kicked the woman’s pram down the stairs (the child wasn’t in it, she’s not that crazy).
With Jude is Suze, her calmer younger sister, and between them they explore a range of issues facing modern women. The acting is excellent: Sarah Mayhew, who also directs, plays Jude, fiercely determined to live her own life. She is confident in her decision not to have children, but hates the sense that others are judging her; she worries that the freedom granted her by remaining child-less (or child-free?) is being wasted, or that not being a mother means she doesn’t count.
As Suze, Pramkicker’s writer Sadie Hasler provides a calmer, amused foil to Jude, but isn’t afraid to challenge her sister. She is also superb at playing the other characters, particularly the horrendous mother whose pram is kicked. Mayhew and Hasler have a great rapport, and the sisters’ relationship in the play is a real strength – their dancing together like Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing is very funny, and will live long in the memory.
Quite late in the play there is a major switch in emphasis to Suze’s story, and somehow the momentum is lost. This is such a shame, because Hasler has been so good up to this point. Her long monologue doesn’t quite work; it feels like too many issues are being crammed in, as if every single question around the choices facing women has to be addressed, and the focus becomes dissipated in the process.
And despite the range of choices facing Jude and Suze, the view of motherhood is myopic. The only examples are their own mother – who didn’t seem much interested in them – and the extreme caricature of the mother who provoked the fracas, with no recognition that this form of parenting may be an over-compensation for that mother’s lack of confidence in her own choices. Nor is there any acknowledgement that for many women, even here in Edinburgh, having children and balancing their own life is just something they get on with – not easy, but not necessarily agonised over.
Pramkicker is a good play with very good performances, particularly when focussing on Jude’s story. If it allowed that strand a bit more room to breathe, and resisted trying too hard to cram in too much, then it might make an even more rewarding experience.