Mhari and Thomas can’t conceive. Meanwhile, 19-year-old Lily has three kids under four. It doesn’t seem fair, does it? Narrated by Thomas, the play contrasts Lily (Leanne Traynor), who lives on government scheme payments just for bringing offspring into the world – offspring she ignores when they scream on the tram while she gossips with a friend, offspring she doesn’t even really seem to want – with Mhari and Thomas, who are denied the one thing they want most. Surely they are more deserving of children than Lily?
Tick Tock could be a harrowing story, but benefits from well-timed humour and good pacing.
Angela Ness’s script cleverly makes us question this judgment.
Central to the story of Tick Tock is the abduction of Lily’s newborn baby and the response of social services. In an earlier timeline, at the ironically named Helping Hand Fertility Clinic, Mhari’s infertility is confirmed.
Meanwhile, Lily is dealing with dramas with her exes - only ever referred to as Brendan’s Dad and Jordan-and-Morgan’s Dad. Then there’s Ollie (Molly Clarke) her 15-year-old neighbour who follows in Lily’s footsteps, betraying her with either Brendan’s Dad or Jordan-and-Morgan’s Dad, not listening to Lily’s advice to do something with her life before getting pregnant and being ‘a loser’. As we approach the conclusion of the play, the status shifts and we gain newfound respect for Lily.
In contrast, Thomas’ story is one of balancing work demands with consoling Mhari, who is now harping on about adoption, which Thomas doesn’t want a bar of. I initially struggled with why the sole male actor was narrating the story of women and fertility. Thomas’ loyalty and love for his wife towards the end of the play helped to mitigate that, but I felt this came through the performance and not through the script.
Additionally, the title suggests that the passage of time underscores Mhari’s growing desperation at being childless, but I didn’t get a sense of time running out for her, which would have heightened the stakes and strengthened the dramatic structure of the piece.
Tick Tock could be a harrowing story, but benefits from well-timed humour and good pacing. Also enjoyable is the fluid character doubling; Rebecca Wilkie plays a (very enjoyable) socialite stereotype Gillian, as well as the more complex social worker character Susan. Kelly, slipping with ease between the roles of Thomas, narrator, tram conductor and others, holds the show and invites us gently into his world.