Labours of Love

Date 13th November 2019
Society Fledgling Musical Theatre Company
Venue Dumfries Baptist Church Centre
Type of Production Musical
Director Ren Forteath
Musical Director Ren Forteath and Ewan Flint
Choreographer Ren Forteath
Producer Ren Forteath


Author: David Finnie for Stewart Cameron (District 11)

I approached this show with a real sense of anticipation. It's gestation period was quite long in my mind, having had a conversation with writer Ren Forteath at NODA Scotland Conference 2018 on it's imminent birth!

The show hits the ground running with a series of quick-fire numbers setting the scene for what's to follow. What is immediately apparent is the extremely high standard of song writing. Three or four numbers, which would all be candidates for stand-out song from any Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, opened the evening. 

We quickly find ourselves in Scene 4, 'Birthing Room 10', with the song "(New Life) In the Morning" and there is a palpable feeling of empathy and understanding from our largely female audience in recognition of a telling reminder of shared experience. 

Next is "Baby Now", where we find the character Judy Chandler (played by Ren) realising that her life was to change forever with the confirmation of her pregnancy and her subsequent dedication of her future to her unborn child. (And her obvious lack of support from her partner)

At this point in the show I felt that, despite the high standard of song writing, there was a danger that the story was drifting into what was, essentially, a loosely connected series of vignettes. I couldn't have been more wrong! With the song "Young Girl" we are introduced to the character of Ruth Shore, brilliantly played by Sabrina Wallace. She depicts the sometimes naive, but always emotionally attuned 3rd Year Student Midwife wonderfully. She is, quite clearly, the narrative thread and, in essence, the conscience which holds the whole story together. 

"They've Got it So Easy" finds our heroine Ruth frustrated at the attitude of patients in our relatively privileged NHS in comparison to some less fortunate parts of the world. Some stark statistical evidence from, in particular, the situation in Uganda highlights this. Though, she is reconciled to the fact that the act of giving birth is far from easy; no matter what your circumstance!

Act 2 is, if anything, even more fast moving than the first act. Sparse, but effective lighting and inspired use of minimal staging both add to the overall impression of slick professionalism. "When the Buzzer Goes" cleverly interjects hospital buzzer sounds with the musical arrangement to emphasise the urgency of a hospital staff desperately working to save both mother and new-born child.

Towards the second half of Act 2 the pace slows with some gentle, reflective lullabies, before we are hit squarely between the eyes with "The Ballad of Mhairi and Freida"! This song borrows, more than a little heavily, from "Let's Do It" by Victoria Wood. It also requires great acting ability and verbal dexterity from the cast members involved - which they carry off with great aplomb!

Ending the show and squaring the circle, so to speak, is the song "Lutao Lwabakyale" - the Ugandan word for childbirth. It literally means 'a woman's battle'. Ren Forteath may have had her battles on her way to completing this musical but she has emerged victorious. And although it may be her baby as writer, director, producer and performer, it is certainly not a one woman show a la Victoria Wood. She has surrounded herself with a cast of brilliant performers - and, whether playing midwives or not, they all deliver! A triumph.