Entertaining double act Full-Pelt Theatre explores life before…well, life as Wombmates at Theatre N16
Wombmates, in what I can only describe as one of the most (presumably self-consciously) brilliantly appalling bits of theatre marketing copy I’ve ever encountered, is ‘an ‘ultrasound’, fast-paced, bizarre new comedy about two brothers, Eric and David, from conception to birth.’ Needless to say, I went in with limited expectations.
My fears were alleviated. Writers and performers Adam Mort and Aaron Dart have a great comic rapport and, alongside director Allie Munro, a lot of good ideas. The piece moves at breakneck speed as the two foetuses (I have Googled, this is the correct plural) explore their life in the womb and ponder their future outside of it.
The comedy is at its most effective when the pair proffer explanation for the physical symptoms of pregnancy; the ‘cravings rap’ is a notable highlight. Similarly effective is the presentation of their parents’ overhead voices as well as a littering of tongue in cheek pop culture references. The philosophical moments, such as pondering ‘is there life after birth?’, provide a smart and entertaining touch.
However, there are jokes which feel remarkably out of date for such a young company. Semi-xenophobic jokes about Chinese names and a father exasperated at his son’s wish to become a dancer fall flat. This isn’t the ‘PC brigade’ muscling in: it just feels of another era, like they are imitating comics of an older generation. The penis jokes could have been funny if dropped in here and there, but they are lengthy (no pun intended) and feel laboured. I’ve no doubt as the pair grow in experience, they will have more confidence in their own voice and avoid these pitfalls.
There is also little plot progression in the production. It is abundantly clear that it originated as a sketch show, with different bits of work patched together over time. There would be ample opportunity to explore the progression of the twins’ development in the womb which might have helped structure the piece – a throwaway comment about becoming too big for the space could have been explored to greater effect. The use of physical theatre is employed most effectively when it is overtly clumsy and childish, as some attempts to appear polished fall flat. I also appreciate there is no need for excessive design here, but the props are littered around the stage chaotically which feels unprofessional.
Overall, Wombmates is an entertaining hour-or-so which, whilst warmly received by its audience, needs a fair amount of refinement to achieve its goals. With a bit of tightening here and there, we have a promising comic duo on our hands.