Reviewed – 23rd January 2019
“will have real potential when it finds its focus, and chooses a direction”
Jude (Sarah Mayhew) never married. She never had kids. For her, these things were never a priority. She doesn’t hate children, but she does hate smug mums with superiority complexes. One day, when one such mum and her wild, screaming children are blocking the till at a café where she’s trying to order coffee, and the mum suggests Jude is intruding on them and their ‘creative time’, Jude snaps. She and the mum get into an altercation that results in a pram being kicked rather forcefully. Although the pram was empty (Jude isn’t a monster), the incident lands her in anger management therapy, which she attends with her sister Susie (Sadie Hasler) for support.
Old Trunk Theatre’s Pramkicker, written by Hasler, examines the various pressures and difficulties faced by modern women. However, instead of one articulate narrative, the play feels like a jumble of pieces that are not cohesive in tone, style, or even theme. They could be extracts from different scripts. It’s a promising intro: the pram-kicking incident is funny and a creative illustration of the stand-off between mothers and ‘childfree’ women. There’s some well-executed physical comedy between Mayhew and Hasler as they acted it out. We want to know what happens next.
But the play quickly veers off the path, and we are suddenly with Jude’s sister, who tells us about her childhood. The therapy sessions inexplicably morph into a talk show before they (along with an odd voiceover from a therapist) disappear altogether. Then Jude is telling us about the time she lived with Russian prostitutes and cocaine-dealing gangsters. It’s scattered, messy storytelling. Each jarring jerk of the steering wheel makes us less certain Hasler knows where she’s going. The assorted sections are interesting in their own right, but it’s difficult to feel invested in what’s happening as we are pulled roughly from each scene and carelessly tossed somewhere else. The abrupt transitions are emphasised by harsh, blinding white light.
Non-linear storytelling is a stylistic choice, but there is a question of whether Pramkicker is an actual story more than a cobbling together of disjointed anecdotes. The individual scenes display considerable writing skill – there are moments of impressive spoken word performance – but it seems there was little effort made to shape them into something coherent.
Pramkicker takes on a multitude of urgent, controversial topics about the ways in which women relate to society, motherhood, and each other. It will have real potential when it finds its focus, and chooses a direction.
Reviewed by Addison Waite
Photography courtesy Old Trunk
Part of VAULT Festival 2019