Considering that Louise Brown, the first "test tube baby", is thirty-seven years old, that one in six couples struggle to conceive, and that IVF, the "miracle" that produced Louise and so many others, is available on the NHS, it is surprising that the cultural impact of infertility has been so negligible, particularly in the theatre. We have had plays about everything from the privatization of the railways to the agonies of snooker, so the first sensation on seeing Gareth Farr's moving The Quiet House at the Park Theatre in North London (which runs until July 9) is that it is long overdue. Jess and Dylan are a happy, settled, professional couple in a sleekly decorated flat with an emptiness at its heart. They want a child, and can't have one. The decision to try IVF is not even discussed – it is just the logical progression from the medical evidence that without it, they haven't got a chance.
Without ever feeling schematic or preachy, the play takes up themes thrown up by their decision that might seem "obvious", were it not for the fact that no one ever seems to talk about them in polite society (by which I mean all society outside specifically designated support and discussion groups): envy or awkwardness arising from the ease with which others – in this case a neighbour in the upstairs flat – can conceive, and the daily reminder of that in the shape of a baby; the taboo around discussing either infertility or the decision to use IVF to address it; wounded male pride – about "being a jaffa" – and its mirror image, self-inflicted female shame – "it's always the woman's fault". When it comes to conception, we witness the substitution of a round of painful injections and medical procedures for the intimacy of sex, and how the couple compensate for that. Then there is the question of how a parent begins to relate to an unborn child, from the moment it first becomes a possibility, and the alternation of extravagant hope and overwhelming despair as the news of embryos, implantation and "viability" comes through.