‘Think Juno meets Waiting for Godot - but amazing’. No - don’t, think of all the clichés you’ve ever heard surrounding the abortion/pregnancy debate, add in a couple of bizarre scenes involving flying foetuses falling from the sky and there, sort of, you have Cartwheels. A play that intends to discuss the highs and lows of pregnancy and growing up, with an added absurdist twist, Cartwheels manages to be both clichéd as well as utterly incomprehensible. There are moments of tenderness but ultimately the play is dull, self-indulgent and far too long.
The plot revolves around three students: Amy, Karen and Dorian. The three live together and are apparently very good friends, despite mocking Dorian tirelessly about his sexuality for a rather unreasonable amount of time (I thought we had all moved on from playground gay jokes?) Amy and Dorian have sex on a completely unbelievable whim and suddenly Amy is pregnant. A series of conversations ensue around the various choices she must make surrounding the child and the stereotypes come out to play. Karen, in Doc Martens, is the rational, serious best friend who is fiercely pro-choice (‘one day you’ll be dead but we don’t call you a corpse’), Dorian doesn’t know what to think and Amy just kinda wants to keep the baby maybe because you know, well, because. Karen, who earlier in the play we are told is ‘not a real girl’, is portrayed as lacking some kind of fundamental emotional response - dangerous territory, it’s disturbing to watch. If in doubt, stay away from the abortion debate. If you must write about it, don’t make the proponent of a pro-choice such an obvious villain (unless you want to potentially enrage your audience).
The other part of the drama takes place in some kind of field somewhere, at a later date, where Amy and Dorian are waiting for a foetus to appear from the sky. We’re never given enough information even to begin to know what the hell is going on - a bewildering concept, it simply just doesn’t work. Absurdist theatre is difficult. Hart can’t pull it off.
Cartwheels is a strange play that doesn’t seem to ever truly engage with its material. There’s a lot of waxing lyrical about pregnancy, life and pseudo-philosophy but not much substance.