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Partus review at Crucible Studio, Sheffield – ‘thoughtful and heartfelt’

The cast of Partus at the Sheffield Crucible Studio. Photo: Helena Fletcher The cast of Partus at the Sheffield Crucible Studio. Photo: Helena Fletcher
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The Crucible’s Studio space has been decked out like a church hall. There are notice boards on the walls, there’s a line of tea cups waiting to be filled and there are a large amount of wooden chairs arranged around the room in a circle. It looks, appropriately enough, like the setting for a National Childbirth Trust meeting.

This is the backdrop for another typically imaginative production from Sheffield company Third Angel. For its 21st anniversary, it has been interviewing a whole series of people about their experiences of childbirth – mothers and fathers but also midwives and obstetricians. These interviews are performed verbatim by the four-strong cast, the dialogue interspersed with some Victoria Wood-style songs, and a bit of interpretive dance. While this might make it sound a bit too worthy for its own good, Partus is actually a funny, thought-provoking and completely unsentimental piece of theatre.

The cast performs the monologues incredibly well, particularly Laura Lindsay’s harrowing tale of stillbirth and Stacey Sampson’s portrayal of a vulnerable, scared yet defiant teenage mother, and there are also plenty of jabs at the effect funding cuts in the NHS are having on expectant mothers, although this never feels preachy or polemical. At over an hour and a half, it’s possibly a tad too long (especially sitting on those uncomfortable wooden seats) but it’s so fast moving that time never drags.

On the surface Partus might seem a bit too niche a production, but its appeal is broader than just expectant parents: it’s a thoughtful, touching study of one of the most universal of subjects.

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An imaginative, thoughtful and heartfelt exploration of the experience of childbirth