This harrowing story of platonic love, loss and the things we do for our families is absolutely gripping from the moment it starts. Writer and performer Johanna Nutter lays everything on the slab, she emotionally exposes herself for everyone to see and from the offset achieves a strong connection with her audience. She becomes a rock, a touchstone, a crutch and carries the burden with quiet dignity much the same way as, she tells us, she did with her family. This technique, be it conscious or otherwise, of reproducing the supportive relationship is pinnacle to the success of this wonderful show. She locks eyes with the crowd, smiles warmly and has a performance style which is natural, confident but underpinned by the bubbling of worry and self doubt, a worry and self doubt that she reveals to be a pertinent aspect of her personality throughout the story. We follow her through the ups and downs and each step we pray that she finds solid ground. I have never before felt so inclined to get out of my seat and hug an actress mid-show.
The performer audience affinity raises this show above being an anecdote on an oddity - My Pregnant Brother is not a exhibition from Ripley's Believe it or Not. Whilst the eponymous thread is fascinating and riveting, My Pregnant Brother is more concerned with family relationships and by keeping the emotional focus on this facet Nutter allows every audience member to step into her world. She is able to mine the slightly more bizarre narrative beats to bring out the affective core and also finds manoeuvrability within the text for some truly joyous and funny moments.
The script does occasionally become a little overburdened with metaphorical imagery and similes which can pull one away from the story somewhat, but Nutter is usually quick to rectify this and gently invite the audience back in. My Pregnant Brother is engrossing and full of heart.