I was gifted a copy of Emily Writes’ Rants in the Dark: From One Tired Mama to Another at my first baby shower. I was told to read it but skip the birth story until after I’d had my baby. I devoured the book and laughed and cried in equal measure. And, as soon as I was home with my newborn I read that birth story. Good advice to skip that one during pregnancy. Anyway, the point is I’m a fan.
Since then I’ve followed Emily’s work as editor of The Spinoff Parents and read everything she puts out there. For mothers and parents, she’s a refreshing voice in a world of perfect Pinterest parties and post-baby workouts. So imagine my joy when I heard that the fantastic blog-turned-book was going to be a play? After a successful run in Wellington, Rants in the Dark is now on at Auckland’s Bruce Mason Centre for a limited season.
The play has been adapted for the stage by writer and performer Mel Dodge, award-winning director Lyndee-Jane Rutherford and Good Times Company producer Bevin Linkhorn, and stars three of New Zealand’s top actors, Renee Lyons (Funny Girls, 800 Words), Bronwyn Turei (Go Girls, Shortland Street – The Musical) and Amelia Reid-Meredith (Shortland Street).
At last night’s opening night the audience was 99% woman and probably 60% bumps. You could feel the hormones circulating and a happy breeziness in the air. I’d dragged myself out the house at 29 weeks pregnant and exhausted, but I wasn’t gonna miss a show that was going to honestly articulate exactly how I am feeling most of the time. My husband messaged to check I got there ok and to ask how I was feeling. I replied ‘Rough. Tired. Teary’. I was totally on brand for some Rants.
The simple stage set allowed for multiple uses – featuring a feeding chair, toy storage unit, and a simple bench/bed. Renee Lyons led the charge of the cast of three as she played ‘Emily’. Using handheld mics, they perform various monologues, sketches and voiced those dreaded internet comments – the good, the bad and the oh so very ugly.
This format created an open, relaxed informal feeling that kept the audience immersed in the stories being told. Three pillar backdrops that could be quickly lit revealed plinths that provided the cast with a place to depict various characters’ inner thoughts and those (mostly) unwanted opinions from strangers and loved ones. This was an effective way to add layers to the production and air the many conflicting pieces of ‘advice’ and general ‘noise’ we all hear during pregnancy and once we have children.
The cast brought brilliant energy along with perfectly executed scene and character changes. Lyons especially was able to flip from comical to devastated in a split second and did so effortlessly.
The content of the play stays close to that of the book and Emily’s raw authentic voice is all over it. From tales of pregnancy complaints, magical birth stories, those long sleepless nights or just generally keeping your shit together. It’s kind and empowering. Like a comforting arm around your shoulder that says ‘you’re doing ok’. When it’s funny it’s bloody hilarious and when it’s sad it’s like a punch in the guts.
But overall, this show will make you appreciate your mighty mummy power, your partner and family’s love and support and most of all those exhausting little bundles of joy. To quote Amy Schumer’s recent Instagram declaration ‘Women are the s**t. Men are cool and whatever but women are f**king warriors and capable of anything.’ And that’s how you feel when you watch this show (once you’ve finished crying – honestly take lots of tissues). The message is positive, supportive and celebrates mothers like no other performance art I’ve seen.
Emily Writes is a national treasure and her source material has created something here that will entertain but also help families realise they ARE good parents and we’re all just f**king doing it!
Get yourself a ticket to Rants in the Dark, on at the Bruce Mason Centre until 18 May.
Emotionally reviewed by Ingrid Grenar.