Adopting a child is a complicated and emotionally testing process, as Daf James’ play for Paines Plough’s Roundabout space makes clear. It’s hard enough when you’re part of a couple, even harder when you’re going it alone.
Josh (Toyin Omari-Kinch) and Abbi (Charlotte Bate) can’t have kids so they decide to adopt. This leads to a lot of difficult conversation surrounding the kind of child they’d be willing to have placed with them.
Then James sends his play careening in an unexpected direction and Josh finds himself grieving while trying to adopt on his own.
On the Other Hand, We’re Happy is at its best when exploring the ethical issues surrounding adoption – it poses some knotty questions – but elsewhere the way it handles this emotive material feels heavy-handed.
Charlotte O’Leary plays both the girl Josh hopes to adopt and the mother who acknowledges she can no longer care for her, and she’s great in this double role, but too often the play feels likes its telling its audience what to feel.
This is amplified by the way Stef O’Driscoll’s production uses movement. The production is stuffed with drawn-out physical sections, in which Omari-Kinch pitches forwards or reels from side to side to indicate emotional turmoil and the engulfing nature of grief. These actively detract from the play’s impact, draining it of subtlety.