One good thing about being a man is that you don’t have to have a baby. But according to Joe Penhall, whose Birthday at the Royal Court is the latest in his searing, funny and alarming forays into bodily functions and the health service, it’s no consolation to watch how it’s done.

The humiliation of childbirth has driven Stephen Mangan’s curly-headed, highly strung Ed into the strange position of going through the procedure himself. Yes, he’s completely up the duff on an NHS maternity ward, already induced, detailed for a caesarean, and looking forward to the epidural they won’t give him.

His high-flying executive wife Lisa (Lisa Dillon) had a difficult birth with their first child after suffering a series of miscarriages. So Ed has bitten the bullet, though we are spared the anatomical and biological detail of how this happened: instead, he’s taken to the physical inconvenience as only a man could, as a flouncing drama queen relishing all the symptoms from tears to swollen ankles.

“I’m like a Bernard Matthews turkey”, yells Mangan, shifting uncomfortably around the bed while Llewella Gideon’s lumbering, disinterested midwife turns him on his tummy to execute an insertion with latex gloves in order to discover if the baby has moved from the bowel to the abdominal cavity…

The maternity hospital is situated next to a prison, making the point that new life is starting as a rebuttal of the old lags, though Mark Thompson’s sleek circular design has the green anodyne cleanliness of the new tower at University College Hospital.

Penhall’s slightly disgruntled view of the NHS is based on some unlucky personal experience, but he manages to turn the mishaps and screams of rage into scintillating comic dialogue, so that the comedy becomes one of the human condition, not just sour grapes. There’s a cord around the new baby’s neck that need emergency attention, and the whole business of its arrival is as fraught with difficulty as someone turning up at immigration without the right papers.

And the piece is beautifully and tactfully acted by the spirited Mangan and the slinky Dillon in Roger Michell’s finely judged production, which re-unites the writer and director of the movie version of Ian McEwan’s Enduring Love as well as of Penhall’s own psychiatric, ground-breaking classic Blue/Orange; running at just 90 minutes it covers so much ground you hardly notice the pain.

Penhall is not just having a grumble but also querying what children do to relationships that were forged without them. These are deep waters, and the final moments of the play are curiously moving. And there’s a lovely little cameo from Louise Brealey as a registrar steering well clear of obstetrics, a man’s world, apparently, and full of politics. Suffer little children.