Review: On The Other Hand, We're Happy (Summerhall Roundabout, Edinburgh)
Daf James' play centring on adoption premieres at the Edinburgh Fringe
Budding young couple Abbi and Josh are high on mandy, coming back from a party. Abbi, breaking out of a meandering spiel, turns deadly serious: she says she wants to have a baby. Josh, boggled, sweaty, trying to get his bearings in the back of an Uber, agrees.
Months and a low sperm count later, the pair have decided that adoption is their best option. It's here that Daf James' new play, which has its premiere as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Roundabout season, really hits the sweet spot. Exploring the psychology and ethics of bringing a child into your home, he teases out some fantastic questions: should an infant be judged by the name they have? Or the family they came from? As Josh puts it, wearily, anyone being adopted is "more likely to come from a place of chaos."
The pair (played by Toyin Omari-Kinch and Charlotte Bate) also use some amiable direct address to really drive points home – asking the audience (in a typical Chris Tarrant fashion) questions like "Would you adopt someone who is HIV positive?". "You're not trying to be mother Theresa", Abbi points out.
James pulls a few rugs out and the piece has a major gear shift around the 30-minute mark, just as the bright, exuberant adoptee Tyler (Charlotte O'Leary) arrives on stage. He piles fresh new issues onto the already thick plot, with Josh grappling with questions he never expected to have to ask himself.
It's let down by protracted, repetitive physical sequences that keep reappearing in Stef O'Driscoll's production, especially when Omari-Kinch, grappling with grief, lollops around the stage accompanied by some thumpy synths. It feels out of place in a show where both the performers and the writing are more than good enough to infer the inner turmoil and sadness of learning to live after loss.
Nevertheless this a bloody nice piece of writing that glitters underneath Peter Small's twinklingly sepia lighting.