Debating whether or not to have kids should be simple, right? No Kids, an honest, joyful and touching play, shows us it’s not so simple after all. Lucy Curtis reviews:

Madonna is pulsing in the background.

The lights go out and Nir Paldi and George Mann are standing under the spotlight, staring directly into each other’s eyes less than an inch from one another.

Seconds later, Madonna’s back and the duo bounce joyfully, welcoming the audience.

They’re a real-life couple you see. They talk about their theatre company, Ad Infinitum, and wanted to discuss whether or not they should have children. So, like any director would, they decided to make a play about it. Hence, No Kids.

No Kids Battersea Arts Centre

George Mann and Nir Paldi (image courtesy of Alex Brenner)

The way in which No Kids intertwines real life with fantasy is beautiful – Paldi and Mann combine direct audience conversation with imaginations of parenthood. Hopes play out in an epic flamboyance of storytelling that has everyone whooping, cheering and crying with laughter. Fears are more honest because the actors delving into their own past and addressing very personal anxieties. Still, within these moments they are are never lost to self-indulgent misery. Comic input, often in the form of music and dance (their rendition of Like a Prayer is superb), adds to the emotional build-up by providing small and temporary release.

This is what is so joyful about No Kids. The direction and writing are a work of art, pacing the material perfectly to pull the heartstrings in perfect time to Madonna’s musical numbers. It’s clear as to how the piece was devised; raw energy guides the performance more than words on a page. This energy is in part due to the movement, and there is a lot of it. Paldi & Mann dance in flawless synchronicity and at the right moments, are intensely poignant.

No Kids Battersea Arts Centre

George Mann and Nir Paldi (image courtesy of Alex Brenner)

The only thing missing from No Kids is an equally exciting, energetic set. Anna Orton‘s design is multi-purpose, used effectively by Paldi and Mann to create height, objects and sound effects accentuating key narrative moments. But, given their talent to adapt and repurpose almost anything, it feels a wasted opportunity to have only tables, stools and clothes rails (only adding colour) on stage.

No Kids is an easy play to love – Paldi and Mann welcome their audience into the paradoxically fantastical and tangible world of a real-life couple. Every aspect of this play is at once about their personal reflections on having a child, the exposed and universal hopes and fears of every family-to-be.

No Kids strikes a chord with everyone in the audience, to the extent that my partner turned to me afterwards and said,

“Huh, do you really want kids?”

★★★★☆

No Kids plays at Battersea Arts Centre until 23 February 2019, followed by the Tobacco Factory from 27 Feb – 9 March 2019. For more information or to book tickets, please visit the company website.