The Cord

Theatre in the round (well, square) at the Bush Theatre, The Cord is a powerful realist drama about the unshakeable bond of motherhood and the tests of being a new parent, written and directed by Bijan Sheibani (Netflix’s One Day).

A powerful realist drama about the unshakeable and unspoken bond of motherhood

The Cord centres around new father Ash, played by Irfan Shamji, who, feeling boxed out of the loving bond between mother and newborn, struggles to come to terms with his new supporting role. Petty arguments fuelled by sleep deprivation ensue, calling to mind all of our own worst frustration towards our partners and the question of who, if anyone, started the fight.

The relatability of The Cord is largely what draws us in and, while the language centres around the everyday – around Christmas dinner and mastitis – the bare staging and absence of props give the production a metaphysical dimension.

Ash’s philosophical ponderings fall on wife Anya’s deaf ears, but, to us in the audience, these questions – in tandem with cellist Colin Alexander in one corner – strike a chord.

“Can you imagine not feeling separate from anything else?” Ash asks, talking about a baby's seamless connection to his mother. “Like when you smile at a baby," he continues, "It feels the smile. It is the smile. Likewise, when you are sad…” The beauty in this line of thought is clear, but later, when we learn about Ash’s fraught early days, we can reflect on its tragedy.

Mimicking how Ash resents playing second string in his new family, he too plays a secondary role in the story. Over and above a story of fatherhood, The Cord is about the deep emotional bond a mother has with their child. Though now a grown man, Ash still cannot free himself from his own mother’s pain and anguish, or the inadequacy he feels as a result. But, in his efforts, and by releasing his own anger, he and his family find hope.

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Reviews by Laura Tucker

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★★★★★

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

“Sometimes when I look at him, I feel like he’s me. But if the baby is me, then who am I? You?”

The arrival of this baby has changed everything.

Amir hovers as his mother holds her grandchild for the first time, mesmerised. The bag of handmade baby clothes she’s brought lies at her feet.

After she leaves, Amir watches his wife feeding their newborn son, so close, almost intertwined. They look so complete, while Amir feels aware of a growing chasm separating him from them, and him from his own mother.

As sleepless nights, relentless crying and hushed arguments take their toll, Amir grapples with the puzzle of how to be a father, a son, a husband - mashing together pieces that don’t seem to fit. All he knows is he’s determined not to repeat the past.

The Cord is an intensely frank and relatable insight into the challenges of being a parent and a child, no matter how old you are. This evocative new play reunites Olivier award-winning writer and director Bijan Sheibani (Barber Shop Chronicles) with the team behind his 2019 Bush Theatre hit, The Arrival. Cast includes Irfan Shamji (The Arrival, Chasing Hares) as Amir. 

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