Then There Were 3

Then There Were 3
By Shelly Higgs and Daniel Alexander. Directed by Shelly Higgs. The Street Theatre (ACT). December 4 – 8, 2013 @ 7.30 and 3.30 matinees, limited childcare places available.

There’s nothing quite like a baby to chew up and regurgitate parents’ lives. Then There Were 3 is a comedy based on a couple who find themselves in an insta-family and who initially do not cope at all. The musician father, played by Daniel Alexander in a semi-autobiographical role, goes into shock from the moment he sees a face emerging from where no face should ever be. Caroline Simone O’Brien, in a brilliant turn, fills the mother with contradictory rage, both adoring the baby but resenting the hell out of the demands of motherhood, social expectation and loss of her job, identity and dreams she didn’t even know she had.

This all sounds pretty dire, and it could have been without the addition of Raoul Craemer as the “Ninja”, a fate character who both works the puppet of the baby and acts as the crazy universe, playing wild and chaotic jokes at whim (most, admittedly, involving baby sick and nappies) on the hapless couple. Craemer is excellent in serious roles, but this was the first time I’d seen him as a clown and he was great. This surreal element is effective as it stands, but it would be nice to see it with the grander puppetry the authors had originally wanted had they not had budget constraints.

That isn’t to say that it is riotous comedy from end to end. Sometimes the action is hard to watch. Higgs and Alexander have been brutally honest about the issues they faced in the early days of parenthood, which involves swearing, tears and the rude physicality of parenthood. The humour is bawdy, sometimes almost a manic hysteria, and the emotions underlying it are raw. The baby puppet is a loveable but endlessly demanding poo and vomit sprinkler, but worse, the father is so traumatised that he can’t bring himself to care for or to bond with the baby. The mother is virtually left as sole carer, and as a result ends up bristling with hate at parents’ groups, her mother-in-law, and occasionally her partner. It’s not giving anything away to say that by the end of the play, the couple have resolved their issues and life is looking bright, but it has been quite a ride to get there.

While people experiencing post-natal depression will find this the most useful, most parents will relate. It’s possible that teen audience members might be put off having babies for a very long time, but that’s not a necessarily bad thing, is it?

Cathy Bannister

Image: Craig Alexander and Raoul Craemer. Photo by Chuckle Photography.

Read Cathy Bannister's interview with Craig Alexander.

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