Birthday (Penhall)

Full-Length Play, Dramatic Comedy  /  3f, 1m

Joe Penhall

The birth of their daughter should be one of the happiest days of Ed and Lisa's life. An NHS maternity ward and their somewhat unusual circumstances make for an unsettling and satisfyingly comic sequence of events that tests their relationship to the core, and raises intrinsic questions about the nature of birth and renewal, fear and isolation.

  • Cast Size
    Cast Size
    3f, 1m
  • Audience
    Target Audience
    Adult, Senior, Teen (Age 14 - 18)
Licence details
  • Minimum Fee: £69 per performance plus VAT when applicable.
    This title may have restrictions in place in Major Cities. Please submit a licence application to confirm specific availability.



Subverting the received gender roles to darkly comic and disturbing effect, the play charts Ed and Lisa's personally fraught experience at the behest of an NHS labour ward. Penhall expertly weaves an acutely funny and emotionally charged sequence of events: he pitches wryly observed gender perceptions of a quite literal life and death situation against an indictment of the NHS system. The beautifully observed writing is at once vicious and searingly tender.

Birthday achieves an intensely comic counterpoint to the visceral domestic drama sutured to bigger issues of aspiration, sacrifice, who we are, how we communicate, the triumph of tolerance, nature and ultimately love.
  • Time Period Contemporary
  • Features Contemporary Costumes / Street Clothes
  • Cautions
    • Intense Adult Themes


“Penhall's gruesomely entertaining new comedy … Penhall is onto an absolute winner here, taking an inspired idea and using its inversion of normal biological procedure to breed a fertile mix of existential questions and corporeal, sometimes gross-out humour ... there’s nothing out there that cuts with anything like this double-edged finesse to the heart of how we manage the whole birth business in this country and to the core of vexed issues about who does what in modern relationships.” –  Dominic Cavendish, Telegraph

“Penhall allows us to put the pieces together as we please. Ninety minutes of entertainment or deceptive think-piece, it’s still a healthy, bouncing bundle.” –  Ian Shuttleworth, Financial Times

“This often hilarious and provocative play is wonderfully fertile, so to speak ... It’s a tribute to Penhall that you sit there wondering why no one has thought of putting it centre stage … Birthday is full of joys” –  Paul Taylor, Independent



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