Edinburgh Fringe Reviews: Parenthood

Two fine shows that explore the darker side of parenthood

Feature by Ben Venables | 17 Aug 2016
  • Taylor Glenn

There's a famous study by the social psychologist Daniel Kahneman that suggests happiness correlates negatively with raising children. It's an interpretation of a conclusion with a great many caveats, but the everyday reality and responsibilities of parenting both spring to mind in Taylor Glenn and Wendy Wason's shows.

In A Billion Days of Parenthood [★★★], Taylor Glenn casts life before giving birth as footloose and gin-swilling; as a psychotherapist it was other people's problems she had to deal with.

There are some inspired parts to this hour: an undercurrent of anger about the division of labour between mother and father that isn't fully developed, but which gives the show bite; insight about the objects that children cling to for comfort – however unsightly – and how they reflect back on the parent; and pulled into the maw of post-natal depression, Glenn meets an earlier version of herself trying to seek help.

It takes time to build up to the stronger parts of the show in the final third, although on the night of our visit Glenn is interrupted by a strange but apologetic exit from a couple about to miss their train home, which she treats with a delicious amount of warmth and waspishness. A compelling hour.

Wendy Wason
Wendy Wason, photo: Idil Sukan

Meanwhile, Wendy Wason is on similar territory in Tiny Me [★★★]. The show is bookended by the introduction of her various roles – mother, wife, ex-wife, wife – and an ending about the tiny, incremental changes we can affect in society for the better.

If the show is meant to be threaded together by these ideas into a traditional Fringe narrative then it's probably unsuccessful; the points about political change in particular are a little crammed at the end. However, the show is the better for this on the whole, and also better united by Wason's stage presence and attitude than by all that storytelling and arc guff. "Balls!" she says at one point, remembering her train of thought.

She conveys the idea she is delighted to be out the house, de-mob happy and away from her responsibilities, with truthful realism. At its best this show soars; it's like being out for a drink with a friend where we slate and gossip about everyone we know in order to stay civil to their face.

Wason also gets across well the topsy-turvy world of adolescence, or parenting adolescents, where children with unbridled access to the internet can simultaneously be knowledgeable – and opinionated – about current affairs, yet at the same time have quite the wrong idea of the mechanics of a blow job. It's cathartic, and especially recommended for parents in need of a breather.

Taylor Glenn: A Billion Days of Parenthood, Just the Tonic at The Caves (Just Out of the Box), 4-28 Aug (not 15), 9.20pm, £6/PWYW
Wendy Wason: Tiny Me, Gilded Balloon Teviot (Turret), 3-28 Aug (not 15), 6.45pm, £6-12