Stuart King

Review: THE CORD at Bush Theatre

Bijan Sheibani has both written and directed THE CORD which is a reference to matters umbilical and a fascinating exploration of the mental and emotional impact which a mother's experience during and after giving birth, can have on her. It also looks at those nearest family members caught-up in any complications, damage to the bonding process and how such matters may impact the child in later life when they are grown and having children of their own.

The company in 'The Cord' at Bush Theatre. Photo Manuel Harlan The company in 'The Cord' at Bush Theatre. Photo Manuel Harlan

Anya and Ash (Eileen O'Higgins and Irfan Shamji) have just returned from hospital with their newborn. As they begin the settling-in process and juggle sleeplessness whilst trying to establish a new routine, they also start to perceive in each other a bias and selfishness in allocating time to their own respective parents who are understandably eager to meet their new grandchild at the earliest opportunity. As the stressed and tired couple struggle to compromise and even reasonable requests trigger friction, they soon realise that whatever they do, someone will feel offended or excluded. As the cracks widen and arguments become more heated and volatile, Ash searches for answers (or someone to blame), by sifting through the childhood fears he has always carried with him, resulting in a cruel and petulant showdown with his mother. Jane played by Lucy Black (who recently appeared in Sheibani's National Theatre hit Till The Stars Come Down), is both the play's voice of reason and the unwitting catalyst for much of the unrest. And so it is her parental admission that harm was unintentionally inflicted but never properly addressed, which brings this taut and accomplished drama full circle.

A cellist (Colin Alexander) occupies the last of the four chairs positioned at each corner of the raised playing area, and plays his own compositions which help with transitions and add impact to the more combative scenes.