“My Son & Heir”
The Parlour Showrooms
“My Son & Heir,” a two person show about parental expectations and “how we raise boys,” is the first performance from the sixth month “In The City” series, a showcase of events, live arts and talks held in The Parlour Showrooms about the future of the city of Bristol.
The shows secondary objective, other than theatrical entertainment, was to draw attention to the artists use of empty space which is currently being threatened by Bristols review of the Discretionary Business Rates Relief Policy, which means if you use the space to make art, then you get a discount.
The Parlour Showrooms gallery was easily transformed into a theatrical space for the evening with it’s white walls and it’s sparseness and its pop up vibe. You feel like you could spill in there. Like, stuff that stained.
“My Son & Heir” was conjured up by real life partners and parents Jodie Hawkes and Pete Phillips who deem themselves “Search Party,”
The show took place over a cascade of pink toys, littering the small rectangular space and providing either a source of frustration or a illustrative point. Pete put up a Princesses castle as Jodie spoke about everything they hoped their newborn son was going to be, how he would fit every bill and tick every box, both the knight in shining armour and the gentleman boxer. They were clad in dressing up gear, as though they fell into the box and emerged from it crazy. What is cute when you are young, fairy costumes and face paints and knights outfits, makes you look mental when your older. They looked mental. Then they looked tired.
The play went through the highs of presenting yourself as parent, talking about how your child could and will be everything and more, than the dips as they attempted to bring their romance back into their lives, (using the Princess Castle as a sexy spot backed by Meatloafs “I would do anything for love,”) the financial constraints, and the projected fears of how we, the audience saw them as parents. Jodie asked Pete, as he sipped beer with a trite Superman logo lipsticked onto his chest, why their son was hitting other children or wanted to be astronaut and why he just couldn’t control him.
The play was examining expectation vs reality, the fantasies of married life and parenthood, and how ultimately there is no right and wrong way to do it, there are guidebooks and signposts and things you are meant to do but who actually, in their most private moments, can’t help but wonder if they fucked it all up.
I didn’t realise the pair were real life together until late night distraction googling took place, because you have to know everything about the people you saw entertain you, because you have to remove the illusion.
I know most theatre comes out of a certain kind of universal truth, universal turned into a personal one reflected onto the audience to pick apart what applies to them to take home, but using their real names throughout the show and mentioning some of the unmentionable parental worries makes their willingness to broach the subject somewhat braver. Every testimony, parental fear, expectation was pretty close to the bone.
A couple of people were sniffing, trying to hold back tears, as Pete discussed how the children will have the memories despite not having the nest eggs. They will have the tickles, and the piggy backs, and everything else which is essential to making a child feel loved. The memories which make us ache when we are adults when everything is all too much, and we just want to get into the foetal position and eat cheap fish fingers sandwiches and slush puppies.
Unexpectedly funny, moving, amongst a sea of early learning centre toys bleeping and honking, “My Son & Heir” was brave, honest and despite not being a parent, I am more prepared for the fears and more understanding of my parents own.