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