There’s a difference between absurdist theatre and ridiculous theatre. Baby With The Bathwater calls itself the former. However, in this production at least, it’s definitely the latter.
It’s difficult to summarise this play without resorting to the repeated use of the phrase ‘and then’. This is because there’s just far too much plot. In the first half, Helen and John give birth to a baby called Daisy, whom they struggle to love. And then a nanny arrives out of nowhere and seduces John. And then a second character arrives out of nowhere and steals the baby. And then she gets hit by a bus. In the second half, we gain six more characters and lose any remaining interest. Lots of people walked out.
The show sprawls on for an hour and a half, becoming less and less coherent as it goes on. As a result, it has a strange lack of momentum. Early on, I hoped that the moments of comedy might be its saving grace - some of the dialogue is in fact quite witty. Helen’s suggestion, for example, that the baby is ‘just smiling to humour us,’ made me smile. Most of the time, the comic moments prove as unfruitful as the rest. In fact, a lot of the scenes in the second half - particularly that in which we meet Daisy’s closet lesbian headmistress - feel like bad sketches.
Though the acting is poor, there is something likeable about the cast; it’s the direction and the script that make this play irredeemable. The play’s basic message seems to be that bad parenting has a negative effect on a child, but it’s difficult to tell. The longer it went on and the more ideas it tried to cram in, the more apathetic the audience became. It would be very difficult to recommend this show.