Review: THE HARMONY TEST, Hampstead Theatre

Charmingly bittersweet

By: May. 24, 2024
Review: THE HARMONY TEST, Hampstead Theatre
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Review: THE HARMONY TEST, Hampstead Theatre

Women at either ends of motherhood clash bittersweetly in The Harmony Test. Zoe and Kash have tried everything to conceive. Their sex lives are ruthlessly dictated by fertility plans, supplements, vitamins. On the other end of the spectrum is Naomi wriggling out of a loveless marriage now that her daughter has left home, newly equipped with a comically muscular toy boy.

Richard Molloy’s sparky new play has its fair share of flashes of familiar sitcom silliness. Useless men are a motif: Kash – as well as Naomi’s ex Charlie - are as awkwardly incapable of talking about sex as they are navigating a kitchen. Yet they will break into Shania Twain after a glass of whisky or two.  

But it’s thoroughly anchored with steely emotion, the pain of parenthood and the searing desperation for family. Zoe brings us with her on her dive into the unknown waters of motherhood. What if it isn’t what it is cracked up to be? “Parenting is shit!” declares an indignant Naomi. Her sisterly camaraderie with Zoe gently emanates through Sarah Beaton’s cosy but claustrophobic set, a cream-coloured kitchen straight out of a John Lewis show room.

Pearl Chanda and Bally Gill’s chemistry as the young soon-to-be parents is quietly gorgeous, tightly knit by Alice Hamilton’s unfussy direction. Shared looks dripping with longing and goofy smiles mask the aching pain of uncertainty.

Gill, as Kash, is particularly endearing, stepping up to the plate to become Zoe’s ballast whilst she unravels with bitter anxiety. He evolves into a father who will never hesitate to put his wife and child first. But crucially his maturity never detracts from Zoe’s throbbing strain. They share the same pain but suffer differently.

Review: THE HARMONY TEST, Hampstead Theatre

Interestingly this is not the first play to view pregnancy through a paternal lens. The Bush Theatre’s The Cord trod a similar path earlier this year, albeit in more gruelling fashion. That isn’t to say that Molloy’s play lacks intensity: an agonisingly earnest conversation about aborting the potential child that Kash and Zoe long to conceive tugs mercilessly on the heartstrings. Could they navigate the finances? Can they cope if it goes wrong?

The Harmony Test is a reminder that good writing doesn’t have to explode off the stage, but can gently lull you with buckets of charm and laser point focus. The production occasionally creeps into predictable territory, but underneath all the acidic exchanges and domestic battling, it finds a fuzzy heart that soothes the nerve-tinged tension with kindness.

The Harmony Test plays at Hampstead Theatre until 22 June

Photo Credits: Richard Lakos




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