The Cord is a window into a home of a new family as they welcome their first newborn. Ash (Irfan Shamji) and Anya (Eileen O'Higgins) take up their new parenthood with a great sense of joy and enthusiasm but soon descend into disarray and frustration. The new parents struggle with sleep, crying baby and arrangements with each other's family — the all too familiar question of whose family to spend time with over Christmas. 


Sheibani's The Cord does not produce a plot. The focus is rather on the psyche of the male character, Ash and his relationships with Anya and his mother, Jane (Lucy Black) as he tries to step into his role as a new dad. This experience for Ash is a retrospective catalyst of his trauma of abandonment as a baby. Jane struggled with motherhood from psychological suffering, which Ash replicates with his own newborn as he is reminded of the trauma. The Cord broadly runs on the idea of generational cycle that not only children inherit the traits of parents but that the cognition of self is somewhat indistinguishable between parents and children. 


The power of Sheibani's writing lies in its realism, which Shamji and Black execute superbly despite the lack of a meaningful story arc. Shamji is especially convincing in conveying the vulnerability of a person who struggles to understand and to convey the difficult emotions stemming from his trauma. Male vulnerability has been a recurring theme in Sheibani's previous work (including Barber Shop Chronicles, The Brothers Size and The Arrival) as is the case in The Cord. The experience of parenthood and trauma is staged from the perspective of a new dad. Shamji's performance, rather ironically, expressly conveys the inarticulacy of the somewhat auxiliary role of a father as well as a man's relationship with his mother. 


The detail to the movements of actors directed by Aline David stands out, particularly in the production which adds dynamism to the drama. The set and costume are designed by Samal Blak, who has worked with Sheibani on multiple productions. The carpeted stage makes a homelike and familiar setting whereby the actors move, sit and lie freely as if they are at home. However, its bareness, which seems to be a recurring stylistic choice in Sheibani's work, is chic but void of chaos and challenges the couple experience both internally and externally. Colin Alexander's atonal music on cello also fits perfectly the chic and modern production.


Bijan Sheibani's The Cord runs at the Bush Theatre until 25 May. 


Review: Sam Lee    Photo: Manuel Harlan