Fine Comb Theatre Company
Oldham Coliseum Studio, June 1,4,6,7; 1hr, no interval
Fine Comb Theatre has been making quite a name for itself in certain circles (not least the Coliseum, where it is an associate company) since being founded by Rachel McMurray and Catherine Morefield in 2013.
The company’s promise is finely-detailed plays (written by writer-director McMurray), performed by a small selection of players (including producer Morefield), of which Not Yours, Mine is the latest example - based on a series of conversations with people in similar situations.
The title refers to the baby just delivered by Adam’s former girlfriend, Kate - a baby to which Adam, the father, is denied access by a mix of vindictiveness and hurt. Adam is determined to overturn that decision.
Fine Comb largely delivers on its promises: the play is a smartly-written examination of both love and responsibility among the young, mental anguish, determination, and not least of our generally useless legal system, which reduces parents in deeply hurtful dispute to cases, mediation and supervised access.
It is also, though I suspect Fine Comb isn’t quite so keen to overplay the message, a suggestion that selfishness, childishness and immaturity among young adults has got them into the mess in the first place.
There’s a lot going on here in just an hour: Adam (Jake Henderson) lives with his widowed mother Joyce (Kate Hampson), whose anguish at the loss of her husband has become agoraphobia and a tendency to over-shop online with money she doesn’t always have.
The pressures lead to Adam breaking off his relationship with Kate (Catherine Morefield), herself the child of an abusive (though unseen) father, who cuts ties with her boyfriend completely, even though she is pregnant and worried what her future holds, and even though he wants a relationship with the child. Meanwhile Adam falls back on his easy childhood friendship with Lewis (Ned Cooper), an archetypal man-child whose response to misery is usually booze and drugs.
Generally the evening moves quickly and with a growing sense of frustration and annoyance at all concerned, particularly a legal system that seems to treat people like children in school.
The play fails a little when it indulges in the incorporation of choreographed movement into difficult scenes - not much, but for me too much. There’s a little shuffle of people and files when Adam sees a solicitor to fight for access; another whenever he pleads with Kate for the chance to see his son. I’d have preferred powerful dialogue rather than this form of dance shorthand, and the play might be better for it. McMurray already employs a dialogue shorthand, reducing tense conversations between the couple to keywords that convey more that we hear; it works better because there is no opportunity for levity at seeing a couple of solicitors juggling files around. The play doesn’t need levity, just gravity.
The performances are honest though: Adam and Kate strike the audience as a typically baby-too-soon couple, she disappointed and angry, he lost and frustrated but determined that it can’t end the way it seems to be ending. Ned Cooper is laddishly enjoyable to watch as the friend, while Kate Hampson’s performance as the mother is fussily accurate as the grandmother-in-waiting, her mental pressures increased when she learns she won’t be having a relationship with her grandson.