★★★★ Next Door’s Baby
I don’t normally give my conclusion about a show in the first line of my review but Next Door’s Baby – currently playing at Chiswick’s Theatre at the Tabard - is an irresistible gem of a production.
With a book by Bernie Gaughan and music and lyrics by Matthew Strachan, Next Door’s Baby is a dose of smart storytelling and an intelligent, cohesive and original score.
Unashamedly quoting the marketing blurb, Next Door’s Baby is set in ‘1950’s Dublin and two families living in adjoining terraced houses become locked in a bitter matriarchal feud about a Bonny Baby competition run by the local newspaper.
‘Mrs O’Brien is widowed, hard-up, but ferociously proud of her five children; Dickie, Orla, Sheila, Larry and little Conor, the baby who will put their name in lights. She is icily polite to ‘her next door’, Mrs Hennessy, whose lifestyle is one of ease.
‘Against a traditionally Irish backdrop, where respectability is all and you judge a woman by the dazzling whiteness of her net curtains, each family nurses a secret; one that could unite them or tear them apart. It’s only on the eve of the Bonny Baby final that we discover their fate. ‘
The strength of this production is, without a doubt, the wonderfully talented ensemble - Jackie Pulford, Abigail Williams, Amber Deasy, Shaylan Gibson, Ben Hannigan, Logan McQuillan, Hayley-Jo Murphy & Sam Woodhams.
Jackie Pulford and Amber Deasy explore the nuance of their mother/daughter relationship with consistency, tension and ultimately strength, Ben Hannigan as Dickie sings with such force as to take your breath away and Logan McQuillan as Larry and Hayley-Jo Murphy as Sheila are scene-stealing children of the indomitable Mrs O’Brien. This is a company who give knockout performances throughout and should all be much admired and applauded – bravo!
Directed with pace, sympathy, compassion and humour by Keith Strachan and musical direction by Beth Jerem, Next Door’s Baby is a production by Simon Reilly and Sarah Reilly for Take Note Theatre.
Next Door’s Baby runs until 27 May 2023
Theatre at the Tabard, 2 Bath Road, London W4 1LW and more information can be found at https://tabard.org.uk/how-to-find-us/