All Kidding Aside ****

@TheSpace at Surgeons Hall 1pm until August 26


In All Kidding Aside, Christel Bartelse presents a refreshing theatrical comedy based on a life-changing decision. With the help of the audience she explores whether or not she should have a baby.

The show begins with a ‘recording’ of a baby speaking from within the womb, saying thank you to its mother for always ensuring there is enough to eat and for reading The Velveteen Rabbit. The baby exclaims that it can’t wait to meet its mother.

Then Christel Bartelse emerges from curtains beneath a doctors table wearing a grotesque alien-like baby head. I must admit, at that point I wasn’t sure what I had let myself in for.

It’s a unique one-woman-show, she takes her audience with her on her journey towards motherhood. The first stop is her gynaecologist appointment. Here she shares her struggle with endemetriosis, thrashing about on the table to demonstrate how agonizing her periods can be. She has been told by doctors that she is 40% infertile, so in spite of wondering if she wants to have children, she doesn’t even know yet if it’s an option for her.

She seamlessly transitions from acting to speaking to the audience, slipping in and out of character with practised ease. In using comedy, Bartelse gets away with mocking people, playing each character convincingly. In one scene she is having coffee with her friend who has brought her baby daughter along. Christel looks on scornfully as her friend sings a child’s song, doing all the actions to try and soothe her. This is something parents and non-parents can recognise. We all have one friend like that who takes their mother role too far in public. The audience erupts into laughter upon hearing the baby’s name – Austentatious!

All Kidding Aside has many laugh-out-loud moments, but it is also a bold, personal show about Christel’s own very real fears about motherhood. Should she have a baby? Go along and help her decide – the clock’s ticking.

Sharon Jones