Tragedy and Comedy of Motherhood Comes the stage in ‘after birth’

by | Mar 10, 2022 | Theatre

Holiday camp entertainer Ann has the banter, the gags and the songs.  But she’s just had a baby. And she’s developed psychosis. In an age of patriarchy. Oh shit! 

after birth embarks on a tour this March including The Garage, Norwich on Friday 11th March following its London premiere at Omnibus Theatre as part of their VAULT festival transfer season.

Betrayed by family, sectioned and lactating, Ann and her newborn have been detained on a medieval plague island called the MBU. Zena Forster’s production brings us inside Ann’s head as she navigates motherhood, mental health and medication. When she’s scared, we’re scared, when she’s laughing, we’re laughing. She’s got a quick wit, a fast tongue and a captive audience. But she really needs to get back home. Just as soon as she shakes this postpartum psychosis.

Darkly comic and honest, informative and entertaining, this imaginatively staged production blends elements of stand-up comedy, dynamic sound design and original music to tell a story of recovery and hope.

Winner of the North Wall Oxford’s Propeller Award, after birth is written by Zena Forster and directed by the award-winning Grace Duggan. The cast is made up of Sally Tatum as Ann alongside Leona Allen and George Fletcher in all other roles. Originally due to premiere in 2020, the show made its debut in Oxford in June 2021. Omnibus Theatre will see its London debut.

after birth grew out of collaboration between Zena Forster and researchers at the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit (NPEU), Oxford University. For 40 years the NPEU has been the ‘go to’ international centre of research into maternal physical and mental health. Through this collaboration, after birth has been informed by the lived experience of and interviews with many women who have dealt with postpartum psychosis. The pandemic has exacerbated and exposed the crisis in maternal mental health that many women face. Zena also formed a close bond with national charity Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP), who fully support the development of after birth.

Playwright Zena Forster said: “At the centre of my play is Ann – razor-witted and indomitable – she’s a reflection of the many resilient, funny women who experienced psychosis after the birth of their babies, and fearlessly shared their stories with me.” 

NPEU research exposed the shocking fact that suicide remains the number one cause of maternal death in the first year after giving birth, with women from ethnicly diverse communities up to five times more likely to die than white women. Around 15 – 20% of women will experience a mental health problem during pregnancy or around the time of birth. To accompany the tour, after birth will also be performed for midwifery students and academics, helping to share the important messages this play carries.

Professor Marian Knight, who heads research into maternal deaths at Oxford University said:The latest MBRRACE-UK findings around maternal mental health indicate an increasingly urgent need to disseminate the messages of ‘after birth’ to a wider demographic.”

If you, or anyone you know is looking for support or help related to postpartum psychosis, please check out

Click here for listings of events at The Garage, Norwich



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