Birthday: what a childless man made of Stephen Mangan’s pregnancy drama

Huw Fullerton vows to never (physically) have kids after watching the actor's latest black comedy

Forget the black magic, burnings and dragon attacks of Game of Thrones, this week’s most traumatic TV show comes from a less conspicuous source – a hospital delivery room. I am of course talking about Birthday, a high-concept one-off drama on Sky Arts that imagines a world in which men can have a medical procedure to give birth.

Advertisement

As a man I never imagined I’d have to contemplate giving birth, but now I can’t stop. I should praise the blistering performances from leads Stephen Mangan and Anna Maxwell Martin, or how deftly it’s been adapted from its stage origins, but instead all I can think about is how glad I am that I’m not personally going into labour – it looks awful and like men definitely wouldn’t handle it as well as women.

I should note that I’ve never been present at a birth or had children so I can’t vouch for the film’s veracity. But based on what others tell me, the boredom, hospital bureaucracy and intense pain portrayed are all very accurate. Apparently, even without the gender-switch gimmick it’d be a fairly truthful warts-and-all portrayal of a couple struggling through a difficult birth. Why does anyone do this?

But maybe I’m naïve to find this so scarring – when I said I couldn’t imagine ever being as nasty to another person as Mangan and Maxwell Martin’s characters are to each other in the throes of labour, one colleague commented that I clearly hadn’t been in a long-term relationship. And as noted, I also haven’t been through a birth even as a bystander.

Still, one thing’s for sure – if they ever did find a way to allow men to give birth, I’d opt out. My non-existent future children can blame Stephen Mangan.

Advertisement

Birthday is on Sky Arts tonight (Tuesday 9th June) at 9pm