e-baby

Kath Melbourne

A well crafted, entertaining piece of theatre by a female lead creative team.
e-baby

Photo by Richard Parkinson

A solid sign of a well-crafted story is its capacity not to only reach those with lived experience, but also those whose life stories are worlds apart. In this way, theatre connects us with each other and shifts us beyond the boundaries of our own lives.

e-baby is indeed that kind of solid theatre work. This female reviewer has never felt the all-encompassing desire to have a child, or experienced the challenges of carrying and birthing one. Yet these two women and this story are never alienating, its appeal and connection speak broadly.

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You are welcomed into their world (a simply, subtle, clever set, designed by emerging creative Matilda Woodroof) and very quickly these two actors have you wrapped around their fingers.

In e-baby we follow the journey of two women, one a successful corporate lawyer in her mid 40’s (Jane Longhurst) and the other a Catholic Massachusetts mother (Katie Robertson).

Catherine, an Australian ‘Global Citizen’ living in London, wants a child so badly she has spent much of the last decade of her life trying. Her career success belies a deep emptiness and she continues to search for the child she doggedly believes is coming into her life. She is a character the audience both empathises with and wants to scream at.

She is so obsessed with the recreation of herself that everyone else – her partner and even her surrogate – ha​ve become bit parts in her mission. More than once the question of her suitability and preparedness to be a mother arises, but still we hope for her success.

The surrogate, Nellie, a young mum of two, is driven to help ‘God's will’ along and share her womb, a bakers oven for another woman’s cake. She determinedly struggles on a journey that sees her challenge her faith and her own marriage.

Just when you think the characters may become two-dimensional they surprise you. When you think they fall neatly into boxes, they turn a corner and show their capacity for a more complex and symbiotic relationship, or reveal a side of themselves not yet brought to light. These are layered, highly believable characters.

Longhurst and Robertson are supplied with a generous collection of brilliant lines that sees the audience laughing till they snort. You’ll learn everything you ever need know about ethical hand embroidered menstrual liners and subscription based vlogging. You’ll groan and giggle remembering every conversation you’ve had with a person whose only start to a sentence is ‘I’.

In a two hander in a static setting the focus is very much on the performance of the two women, and their portrayal of subtle (and not so subtle) power dynamics. The co-direction of the two actors is deftly undertaken by Anne Cordiner and Julie Waddington and the story unravels with pace and poise.

A special shout out must also be given to Tasmanian Theatre Company’s Artistic Director, Charles Parkinson, who is fantastic at uncovering new spaces. We find this intimate season of e-baby tucked away in a school in West Hobart. He’s made a great choice in this work – it's a joy to see a female lead creative team in interesting and diverse 2017 season.

This is a well crafted, entertaining piece of theatre with broad appeal. With its accomplished actors and clever script e-baby prompts you to think about motherhood, life’s human transactions, and modern women’s choices. Well worth seeing, and especially accessible and enjoyable for first time theatre audiences.

4 stars

e-baby
Writer: Jane Cafarella
Produced by Tasmanian Theatre Company
Director: Anne Cordiner and Julie Waddington
Lighting Designer: Max Ford
Set design: Matilda Woodroof
Cast: Jane Longhurst and Katie Robertson

Patrick Street Theatre, West Hobart
20 March – 1 April 2017

Ten Days on the Island
tendays.org.au
March 2017

 

About the author

Kath Melbourne is a Tasmanian arts executive who has led multi art festivals, innovative government initiatives and produced large-scale dance, circus and theatre productions in Australia, Asia and Europe. She's worked in Aboriginal communities, outback towns and off the side of 20 storey buildings. Right now she's consulting on projects nationally and internationally, and reviewing for Arts Hub Australia. She does not tweet.