Even though Amanda Whittington’s play was written more than 20 years ago, and it’s set in the mid-1960s, there’s something eerily prescient about Be My Baby.
While the focus is more on adoption than abortion, it’s a timely reminder of how puritanical attitudes to sex and pregnancy were – and, as a series of worrying actions in the United States demonstrate, still are.
Whittington’s play, which closes Leeds Playhouse’s pop-up season and is the last production until the newly refurbished theatre reopens in October, is a sad tale of four girls who end up at a church-run institution: alone, pregnant and forced to give up their babies for adoption.
The characters are beautifully drawn, from Simona Bitmate’s Mary, a middle-class girl whose mother feels she has brought shame on the family, to Dolores, a sweet, naive supermarket worker raped by “the boy from packing” (Tessa Parr, who has been uniformly excellent throughout the season).
You can almost smell the desperation to escape Amanda Stoodley’s large, imposing set, dominated by large, grey cupboard doors and some uncomfortable looking beds, while director Jacqui Honess-Martin has her cast sing the excellent soundtrack of 1960s girl-band classics, giving these songs a new air of poignancy.
Be My Baby is also another fine example of the inclusivity work that Leeds do so well. Anna Gray from learning disability theatre group Mind the Gap, slots into the ensemble effortlessly, and there’s some ingenious captioning written in the style of case notes. It’s these little touches that make the next chapter for Leeds Playhouse such an exciting one.