Do you know how your mom would sneak in veggies to make you eat healthy? Well, “Brenda’s Got A Baby” does something similar – it serves up belly laughs while subtly tackling serious issues about race-related healthcare in the UK (with a bonus wink to Tupac’s song title). The play cleverly weaves together a universal story of motherhood, career pressure, and family dynamics, all served with a side of baby-related puns that keep you giggling throughout. And no, the actual Brenda doesn’t make an appearance – she’s more of a ghost character here.
Ama’s Biological Clock: Ticking and Kicking
The story revolves around Ama (Anita-Joy Uwajeh), a successful 28-year-old professional navigating the challenges of modern life. Ama’s biological clock starts ticking louder as she nears 30, influencing her plans dramatically. After an unexpected breakup, she finds herself desperately wanting a baby, even if it means being a single mom, involving a clinic and her adorable yet clumsy brother-in-law (sounds weirder than it is, don’t worry).
Community Roots and Reality Check:
What adds an extra scoop of depth to the belly laughs in “Brenda’s Got A Baby” is its origin story. The development of this show involved community workshops with Black women. These workshops delved into the experiences and norms surrounding family and motherhood.
The play sheds light on a stark reality – Black women in the UK are four times more likely to face complications in pregnancy and childbirth than their white counterparts.
Plus, if you’re looking for a Black sperm donor, that’s another issue – there’s barely anyone to choose from! So, while you’re chuckling at the clever comedy, there’s a powerful undercurrent of awareness about the challenges many women face, adding a meaningful layer to the overall theatrical experience.
But these facts, as important and shocking as they were, were merely brushed over in the script, and didn’t really spark a discussion. I felt like there was a huge missed opportunity in the writing, unfortunately.
A Rainbow of Comedy and Commentary
Despite the show’s obviously Black cultural setting, the story is surprisingly universal. Being Polish, I might have missed some cultural nuances and slang (I’ve heard through the grapevine that there were some), but the cleverly written jokes resonated with me as much as a stand-up comedy peak. The long-burn jokes, like the return of Brenda’s story in the second act, were quite cleverly constructed.
However, I felt like the humour went a bit over the top by the end, turning the show more into an obvious farce rather than a story with a deeper meaning, and I was hoping for a little more substance. Pushing the “oh, there’s a baby, Ama’s so desperate, you know what she might just do (wink)”, was just way too obvious and missed the mark for me. As the show pushed the Black women’s healthcare issues on its headlines, I felt like it just didn’t fully deliver on that part and focused too much on the comedy part instead.
Bouncing Energy and Bromance Brilliance
The cast radiated fantastic energy, bouncing off each other and making conversations look effortlessly natural. A standout (yet quick) moment for me was the bromance between Skippy (Ama’s brother-in-law, played by Edward Kagutuzi) and Dami (Ama’s ex-boyfriend, played by Jordan Duvigneau) – a gem of comedy that didn’t even try too hard. The chemistry between the family members in “Brenda’s Got a Baby” was electric – the sisterly love/competitiveness between Ama and Jade (played by Jahmila Heath) was performed spot-on.
The mix of support, love, and clashes of personalities kept the energy levels high throughout the play. It was like watching a lively family dinner where the conversations were as unpredictable as a baby’s first steps. The conversations at home were just a pleasure to follow, in comparison to scenes in the clinic, but I shall mention more about it later.
In the lively ensemble of “Brenda’s Got a Baby,” Michelle Asante steals the spotlight with her mesmerizing stage presence. Asante’s portrayal of the tough mom of two adult women is a masterclass in balancing strength and vulnerability.
Her character, while unapologetically loud and unabashedly making fun of her kids, also reveals a softer side (even if just for a moment). Also, can I just say, the costumes she wore on the night were spectacular!
Some Hiccups in the Clinic
While the play successfully delivers laughs, there were some hiccups in the writing. The scenes in the clinic felt a bit over-the-top and ridiculous (to me, the whole concept of Ama’s motivation to use her brother-in-law in the process just because she was feeling ashamed as a single woman – just absolutely didn’t make sense, especially since it was stated that it happens a lot). Additionally, the handling of statistics about Black women’s pregnancy issues could use a sprinkle of natural dialogue – the way Ama spat out stats that were not followed up by any comment or discussion, just seemed cold and like it didn’t match the rest of the show. It felt frustrating not to get any added insight into it, and who wants to feel frustrated watching a comedy?
A missed opportunity was also in Jade’s story development – we got a short insight that she was suffering while trying to get pregnant and we got one (short) scene in which she was bleeding – but then again, the show focused on Ama – and Jade’s issues were completely forgotten for the majority of the play. Jade deserved more spotlight, not just as a sister who tries to investigate if her husband has a side romance, but as a person who has her issues to heal.
*I received the invite to see the show in exchange for an honest review
Brenda’s Got a Baby
Brenda’s Got A Baby is now playing at the New Diorama Theatre until 2 December.
Two babies-in-arms performances are scheduled for 16 and 30 November, while relaxed and captioned performances take place on 16 and 22 November.