Firing Blanks: Ustinov Studio, Bath
Ustinov Studio, Bath
You might think a play about infertility and sperm donation an unlikely topic for comedy, but in the case of Firing Blanks you would be wrong.
Tom Spencer's debut play about this very subject is both funny and touching, and one that is close to his heart. Donor conceived himself, he has had numerous conversations with others facing assisted reproduction issues and has neatly condensed their stories into one short, punchy script.
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Firing Blanks features Kate and Richard who meet by chance on a park bench. Kate is a teenager idly feeding the ducks, while Richard has just learned to his dismay that he is infertile, that he is, indeed, firing blanks.
They strike up a conversation in which Kate, a feisty teenager, confronts Richard with some pretty challenging questions that make him face up to his situation.
Holly Beasley-Garrigan is terrific as the no-messing duck-feeding teenager, and Robin McLoughlin's Richard is a sensitive portrayal of a man coming to terms with feelings of emasculation and – ultimately – the joy of fatherhood.
Over a series of frequently humorous park bench encounters, they cover just about the whole gamut of paternity and parenting, assisted or otherwise.
There's also some excellent and ingenious puppetry using a red anorak to portray a baby and then a growing child.
Incidental music to mark the passage of time is provided by the author himself who plays a park busker.
In just one hour Tom Spencer's play manages to convey a whole world of emotional, social and moral complexities with tenderness and a light touch.
It won Fine Chisel awards at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012 and this year will tour nationally with a new work and with Midnight at the Boar's Head, a Shakespearean folk knees-up originally commissioned by Theatre Royal Bath.