Reviews Roundup: The Cord

The Bush

The Cord at The Bush. Photo: Manuel Harlan

Bijan Sheibani‘s new play The Cord, which he also directs, is about the early days of parenthood. It concentrates on the father Ash’s experience, although some critics would have liked to have known more about the mother Anya’s and Ash’s mother Jane’s stories. The play is set in the round on a bare stage with lighting and a cellist providing much atmosphere.

[Links to full reviews are included but a number are behind paywalls and therefore may not be accessible]

Theo Bosanquet at WhatsOnStage (4★) was impressed: ‘Sheibani…has crafted something that feels both universal and deeply personal, highlighting a rarely-spoken truth of parenting: children have a way of finding us out.’ ‘the dialogue feels like it’s been recorded and spoken verbatim’ he said, and ‘Shamji and O’Higgins are excellent in the central roles’.

Claire Allfree in the Telegraph (3★) praised ‘Irfan Shamji who imbues Ash with a blundering bewilderment that feels instantly recognisable and true’ but felt ‘the play is self-limiting, never finding a sufficient universal imperative beyond the bubble of new parenthood that is all consuming for those involved, but considerably less so for everyone else.’ Holly O”Mahoney reporting for The Stage (3★) ‘Sheibani’s thoughtful writing and attentive direction validate Ash’s experience – his are tricky emotions to explore with sympathy – while retaining self-awareness.’ Her criticism was that ‘The focus is on Ash, the action pivoting between his interactions with Anya and Jane, and some conversations – which play out in real time – grow tedious.’

Caroline McGinn at Time Out (3★) felt the play was a ‘missed opportunity’. She acknowledged: ‘It nails the exhaustion, the rows, the anxiety, the joy’. She would like to have known more about Ash’s mother and  ‘I wanted more humour, more tension, more drama really.”Every aspect of the production is meticulous,’ said Susannah Clapp in The Observer (3★) but she didn’t think it was good enough as a stand alone play, suggesting it ‘would be an interesting interlude in a larger event’.

Ryan Gilbey writing for The Guardian (2★) had a similar thought: ‘there is a nagging feeling that the drama hasn’t reached full-term.’ As did Anya Ryan in The Times (2★) : ‘There are stories to be told about what happens to couples and families after childbirth, but this one isn’t quite grown yet.‘ She added, ‘much like the sleepless, tear-filled nights of the early years of parenthood, it feels like an endless slog to get through.’

The Cord can be seen at The Bush Theatre until 25 May 2024. Buy tickets direct from the theatre

Average critics’ rating 2.9★
Value Rating 58 (Value rating is the Average Critic Rating moderated by the typical ticket price. In theory, this means the higher the score the better value but, because of price variations, a West End show could be excellent value if it scores above 30 while an off-West End show may need to score above 60.

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