'Pramkicker' is the comedy that finally challenges child-centric societal values

“It is my right to choose that I don’t want to have children, but there will always be a tiny little question: did I make the right choice?”

Is it selfish for a woman to choose never to have children? This is the question being wrestled with onstage in Pramkicker, a short comedy put on by Dirty Pennies Theatre Project.

Pramkicker follows Jude, a woman of a certain age who has long known she definitely doesn’t want to have a child. After Jude loses her cool in a café full of “yummy mummies” and kicks a pram, she’s sent off to anger management.

“It really packs a punch,” says actress Anna Burgess, in the role of the titular Pramkicker. “It’s such a beautiful comedy, but it really is so tender as well.”

Burgess says she was drawn to the role of Jude as a fully-realised and self-possessed female character. Jude knows where she stands, even as she grows increasingly convinced that other people don’t value her as much as they would if she had children.

“She’s a woman who knows who she is,” says Burgess. “That’s what’s so refreshing: playing the role of a woman who’s in full flight. There’s some stuff percolating underneath, but she’s a woman who expresses herself. She has no fear of that, which is glorious.

“Just because a woman chooses not to have children, she’s often branded: you must hate children, you’re heartless, or you’re selfish, but it’s often not the case. It’s really lovely to unpack that gently, although, obviously, my character’s not gentle.”

Jude is joined by her younger sister Susie, played by Amy May Nunn. The eight-year age gap separating Jude and Susie seems smaller as the two mature and Susie vacillates over having kids of her own. Burgess, who is herself a younger sister, identifies with Susie’s feeling of being “left behind.”

“An eight-year gap is huge when you’re a kid, but, when you get older, it starts to narrow and you find each other,” Burgess says. “There’s that thing with older sisters: the younger one always puts them on a pedestal, like they can do no wrong. For Susie, it’s that discovery: Judy’s just a person, just a beautifully flawed human being.”

‘A woman’s right to choose’ is a phrase usually invoked during debates on abortion rights, but Pramkicker asks a broader question about the status of women who choose to remain permanently childless.

“There’s a sadness to both, and there’s a positive to both,” says Burgess. “It is my right to choose that I don’t want to have children, but there will always be a tiny little question: did I make the right choice? It’s a very tender topic. Jude’s known for a long time that it’s not been in her body – she’s never yearned for that. But there’s not a bitterness about it.”

Pramkicker will make its Australian debut at the Melbourne Meat Market’s Stables, following a 2015 run at Edinburgh Fringe where it drew praise from the Fringe Review and GQ Director Poppy Rowley  – whose credits include That’s A Fact That’s Not Fun and Buried Women – is giving us Pramkicker as a breathless one-hour show free of scene breaks.

Dirty Pennies have been rehearsing in spaces across Melbourne for three days a week, which gives everyone some time to reflect between sessions. The theatre script, authored by Sadie Hasler, reflects a kind of cheeky British humour that will be broadly familiar to fans of BBC comedy. Burgess doesn’t know quite how Pramkicker will go over with Melbourne audiences, but hopes the play will resonate with everyone.

“It’s important, too, that it’s not a play against men,” says Burgess. “But it’s about the women, and the female voice. It’s for mothers as well, to have a laugh and let go of the stresses that a woman is under.

“I think we all get so caught up in, ‘Am I doing it right?’ whatever it is. Are any of us doing it correctly? Who knows? All we’re doing is our best, and we’re having a laugh about that, which is refreshing and liberating.”

Pramkicker will play at Meat Market, North Melbourne from Friday August 24 to Sunday August 26.