Popelei’s Push covers all three trimesters of a pregnancy from the perspective of a 35 year old woman who, frankly, was never quite sure whether she wanted children anyway. Told with a series of comedic monologues, interspersed with energetic – if sometimes, wacky – interpretive dance numbers, we follow Tamsin (Tamsin Hurtado Clarke) through her scattered timeline of moments. There are laughs to be had in this hour-long one-woman show, not to mention some brilliant moments of audience interaction. However, it feels like Popelei lack enough material to create an original narrative that spans the nine-month period.
The sparse staging is a real standout – it’s simplistic, yet stylish. We’re faced with a blank canvas, and Tamsin easily manages to fill the space with her vibrant energy and bring the audience into family kitchens, toilets and dance floors. This is all helped enormously by the superb lighting design by Claire Childs and sound design by Santiago Jara Astaburuaga, successfully transporting us from the somewhat stuffy Vaults stage.
The two other characters multi-roled effortlessly by Tamsin in this biographical production are her Spanish mother and grandmother, who provide some of the biggest laughs in the whole play. It’s a joy to watch Tamsin easily transition between them both with a real sense of empathy for their individual plights as mothers. Her mother in particular has the most coherent character arc, which is a little odd given Tamsin is the subject of the story. Nevertheless, this tool helps bring across the subject of motherhood in all its forms.
There are some good ideas to be found here, but for a play that ambitiously promises an uncompromising new look at pregnancy and motherhood, it does neither satisfactorily. There isn’t enough material to warrant the running time, and the current content fails to shed a new light on the subject.
Popelei might want to take another look at this one if it’s to be a true success – as long as they don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.