Pramkicker – King’s Arms, Salford (GM Fringe 2019)

In an independent coffee shop, full of middle-class yummy mummies wilfully ignoring their kids, Jude has a meltdown. Jude doesn’t like children. She considers kids to be “tit leeches” who validate your existence. “I’ve never shat myself in a pool“, she proudly declares. In her 30s, Jude breaks conventions as a woman who doesn’t actually want to have kids, not wanting any of that “Centre Parks bullshit“.

Pramkicker King's Arms Salford Manchester GM Fringe Sadie Hasler Postcard Theatre
Jude (Coral Sinclair) gets Yummy Mummy (Tilly Sutcliffe) in a headlock. Picture Credit – Alyssa Photography.

On her way to buying her morning coffee, a middle-class, mother of four tries lecturing Jude, feeling morally superior because she can squeeze a sprog out of her vagina. Her kids have names like “Jasper” and “Montgomery”, and are only fed organic food. Jude flips out and kicks a pram down the stairs and into the street.

The kid wasn’t in it! I am not fucking mental.

To avoid having charges brought against her, Jude is sent to anger management classes, where she is prescribed Brian Eno music to “stop her killing people“. She attends the classes with her sister, Suzy, and together they discover the underlying causes behind Jude’s rage.

In this two-hander, Jude is played by Coral Sinclair, and Tilly Sutcliffe plays a multitude of roles, including sister, Suzy, and the patronisingly irritating yummy mummy. The incident is reconstructed in full comedic glory, complete with ear flicking, hair pulling and headlocks. But after this scene, Sadie Hasler‘s script takes a more serious turn, disarming the audience members who may have been thinking Pramkicker is a comedy.

Pramkicker King's Arms Salford Manchester GM Fringe Sadie Hasler Postcard Theatre
Jude (Coral Sinclair) confronts demons from her past (Tilly Sutcliffe). Picture Credit – Alyssa Photography.

After such an explosively hilarious start, these contemplative scenes slow the pace and change the mood to something much more sombre. At times, Hasler’s play struggles with this delicate balance between comedy and severity, with some of the more serious monologues being a little too long. Nonetheless, Hasler has written a play that explores womanhood and sisterhood, without sugarcoating any of the darker issues.

What results is a beautifully rendered, resilient relationship between two sisters. Both actors excel in the roles of Jude and Suzy. Sinclair deftly depicts Jude as a character who has a strong façade, yet beneath that is profound vulnerability and loneliness. It is a testament to her skill as an actor that she can turn a character from being comedic to sympathetic within the space of an hour.

Tilly Sutcliffe deftly switches between characters with a simple application of a single prop. Whether a scarf, some sunglasses, or a handbag, these small changes all denote new characters, which is highly effective in the restricted space of Salford’s King’s Arms. All of Sutcliffe’s characters are brilliantly realised and are wickedly funny. However, it is with her role as Suzy that she generates an impressive character arc. Her character seems to come of age throughout the play, as she grows from being awestruck of her big sister, living in Jude’s shadow, to a strong, independent woman.

Pramkicker King's Arms Salford Manchester GM Fringe Sadie Hasler Postcard Theatre
Suzy (Tilly Sutcliffe) relaxes with her sister, Jude (Coral Sinclair). Picture Credit – Alyssa Photography

It is easy enough to attribute Pramkicker‘s incredible portrayal of sisterhood to Hasler’s script or the magnificent performances from the pair. However, it would be unjust to ignore how effective John-Mark Reid‘s direction is at rendering this beautiful relationship. The two sisters are usually lounging at ease on beanbags, stood in the pub, or sat the garden, drinking gin. Reid‘s relaxed direction immediately allows the characters to be accessible and relatable, adding some cheeky fun to offset Jude’s violent crime of kicking a pram. This is most evident in a spontaneous rendition of Dirty Dancing, complete with lift, which is a joy to watch.

Although at times, Hasler’s Pramkicker struggles with its balance between comedy and serious drama, there is no denying that the wonderful characters in her script are brilliantly realised in this production.

With magnificent performances from Sinclair and Sutcliffe, and Reid’s clever direction, this play ends up being a funny, yet dark and tender exploration of sisterhood. Pramkicker is strangely life-affirming, which comes as a surprise to those who thought Jude just enjoyed assaulting middle-class mothers, with their sense of entitlement, and their “fuck ugly” kids.

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