Play Before Birth

It’s an old feminist adage that the personal is political – and it doesn’t get much more personal than this. Climate change has been everywhere this Fringe, but Play Before Birth tackles an especially tricky aspect of it: "should we be continuing to have children?"

The show deftly interrogates the intersections of feminism and environmentalism

It’s a brave choice of topic and Coast to Coast theatre deserve credit for posing this crucial question. The four-woman cast carefully unpick its ethical complexities, asking: "is it fair on the unborn to bring them into a world in ecological collapse?" And, given the huge environmental damage that each new person causes, "how can spawning another human be justified?"

The story centres on Klara (Rachel Nicholson), a 21-year graduate who is chronically demoralised by the state of the world and who, when she finds herself pregnant, decides on an impulse to keep it. Soon doubts set in and are made worse when Moira arrives. Moira (Ellie Martland) is an environmental activist – intense, nihilistic, and uncompromising on her principles. She announces that she had herself surgically sterilised to ensure she never has children and she urges Klara to terminate her pregnancy.

The show deftly interrogates the intersections of feminism and environmentalism. Moira recounts the hostility she received from male doctors when she told them she wanted to be sterilised. Understandably, she condemns their patriarchal attempt to control her body – and yet she has no qualms about telling Klara what to do with hers. The show questions the centrality of motherhood in norms of femininity and how affronted people become when women deviate from this script by forgoing children.

All four actors do a sterling job, but in foregrounding its themes the show’s character development suffers. Moira, for instance, is reduced to a parody of a hysterical eco-worrior, despite Martlend’s best efforts. As the play starts to exhaust all the angles the writer seems unsure how to end it. They do not, in the end, advocate unequivocal anti-natalism and a sprinkling of climate protest songs injects an occasional note of hope.

The questions it raises will follow you out the auditorium; after this brave production, it’ll be very interesting to see what the company does next.

Reviews by Nuri Syed Corser

Summerhall

Green & Blue

★★★
Greenside @ Infirmary Street

Play Before Birth

★★★
ZOO Playground

Landscape (1989)

★★
Summerhall

Who Cares

★★★★
Summerhall

Like Animals

★★
CanadaHub @ King's Hall in association with Summerhall

Sea Sick

★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Klara is pregnant. She is 21-years-old. Moira wants to change the conversation. Are children really the future? 2030 approaches. Climate change is already here. 'Promising young company' (NorwichEye.co.uk). Coast to Coast hereby invite you to a baby shower... Play Before Birth is an urgent all-female play dealing with the implications that being in an environmental crisis has on motherhood. From the creators of the five-star show 'About Lester'. ueafeministbookclub.wordpress.com

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