The Babysitter, an original InDepth play written by Breman Rajkumar, is a very modern living-room drama, delicately mapping the peaks and troughs of drama in a dysfunctional yet simultaneously typical modern family. The script is dazzling, with a keen ear for naturalistic dialogue, managing to convey the voices of the child Ri (Thisakya Dias) and teenage Nikki (Katie Caddick) without condescension. It is also incredibly funny.
The play benefits from having a simple premise explored in increasingly creative ways; Sara (Emer McDaid) and Jay (Will Kelly) are interviewing Aaron (Angus Imrie) for the post of full-time babysitter for their epileptic infant, Ri. Complicating matters is their belligerent 18-year-old daughter Nikki, who is determined to go to any lengths to prevent Aaron from getting the job.
As any babysitter knows all too well, looking after somebody else’s kids has the potential for awkwardness at every stage, from unwisely giving them enough juice to induce a sugar meltdown to accidently teaching them phrases such as ‘knob jockey’. The Babysitter takes an unsentimental look at the pitfalls and rewards of childcare, with moments of genuine hilarity peppering the action.
While a subplot featuring the parents’ attempts to monitor surveillance over their wayward teenager felt quite contrived, a plot device rather than a believable sequence of events, this was a minor criticism in an incredibly fluid, witty and compassionate play.
There wasn’t a weak link amongst the cast who all delivered spectacular performances, though particular recognition must go to Dias, an adult actress who gave the most uncontrived and honest portrayal of a child I perhaps have ever seen. Caddick and McDaid have excellent chemistry as the sniping mother and daughter and Kelly is a deadpan triumph as the laconic Jay, a character who could easily have been upstaged by the more colourful female personas. Imrie is also impressively subtle in his portrayal of a likeable guy thrown into a madcap scenario, functioning frequently as the only voice of reason among chaos.
With The Babysitter, InDepth are also raising awareness of epilepsy, a condition rarely explored in theatre. It is a credit to both the playwright Rajkumar and actress Dias that this portrayal of childhood epilepsy is neither maudlin nor preachy; the issue does not dominate the play but considers the effect of the condition within the context of family dynamics. The Babysitter is not a play purely about epilepsy, but a complex web of parent-child relationships asking some very pertinent questions as to how one should raise their children, and when it is imperative to let them go.