Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Whose Uterus Is It Anyway?

Photo by Jasmine Simmons

Bite Collective and the Old 505 Theatre presents, WHOSE UTERUS IS IT ANYWAY?, by Georgie Adamson, at The Old 505 Theatre, Eliza St, Newtown. 30th October - 10th November.

WHOSE UTERUS IS IT ANYWAY?, is a new play by Georgie Adamson. Ms Adamson recently completed her MFA (Writing for Performance) at NIDA and this was the play she wrote whilst she was there. It is being presented as part of the inaugural FreshWorks Femme season at the Old 505 Theatre:
FreshWorks Femme is a brand-new initiative, bringing together some of Sydney's fiercest young female theatre makers exploring new ideas and how they view the world.
The Creative Team has Eve Beck, Directing; Madeline Osborn, Producing; Camille Ostrowski as Set Designer, and of course, Ms Adamson as the writer. Martin Kinnane, is the Lighting Designer and Alexander Lee-Rekers is the Sound Designer.

WHOSE UTERUS IS IT ANYWAY? is set within the frame-work of a television Game show where four contestants compete against each other for their free reproductive health treatment. There is only one winner. A young mother, Lila (Annie Stafford) with two young children and a disintegrating marriage; a single, uncommitted to any aspect of her life, by-habit, narcissist, Michelle (Chelsea Needham); Tom (Finn Murphy) a transitioning female-to-male; and a young nun, Mary (Ally Morgan), are the contestants. Clearly, the range of 'types' fits within the notorious boundaries of contemporary Reality Television, as well - wildly diverse. The host, frontman-'stooge', is Toby Blome. He regales them, in turn, with 'provocative' questioning and in each case they are taken into vicarious re-enactments from their lives to clarify how and why they are seeking the health treatment.

The advertising 'blurb' for this play tells us that it 'pokes and prods at the intricate invasions and sinister ridiculousness of reproductive health care', giving an indication that in this set-up of the Game Show/ Reality Television format, that some serious reveal and political gestures will be made about contemporary women's health issues. They also promise that: 'We'll (OOPS) get right deep down to dirty secrets and messy details'.

It is the latter tone, the OOPS, that dominates the body of the writing and the skills of the actors. Says the 'blurb': 'What happens when an IUD, and STI and an abortion walks into a bar?' A question for a jokey punch line. It is the question and the jokey punch lines - clever, though they are - and a huge weight of afternoon television melodrama, that takes up the bulk of the writing and the style of acting. It is an entertaining light-weight experience, and at 90 minutes, in need of the blue-pen of the editor.

The actors, generally, stride the satiric send-up of the undergrad humour of observation of television mediocrity and the soap-opera style of 'naturalism', with varying competencies, and, unfortunately, with, for them as artists, not much material of real bite for political intensity and challenge. The title of the play: WHOSE UTERUS IS IT ANYWAY?, is the most provocative text in the play.

Good fun is had by all. Especially, Toby Blome, who not only carries the Compere with great, sustained, cheesy élan, but also plays a huge variety of pencil-thin characters in the soap-opera re-enactments.

It is a busy show to stage technically with all of its shifts of location and styles, and Director, Eve Beck, manages it, within the limitations of the budget, fairly well, with Martin Kinnane delivering with his usual meticulousness, lighting cues to keep it all attractive and 'moving forward', aided and abetted by Alexander Lee-Rekers' Sound support.

There was not much bite from this Bite Company production. It pandered to the ridiculousness of contemporary mediocre television that dominates our viewing opportunities, and, relatively, neglected the opportunity to seriously challenge and educate its audience with the cultural ignorances of the every day real dilemma of being a woman with issues that concern their health, let alone their uterus.

Watching this play I was reminded of the Paddy Chayefsky script for the 1976 film, NETWORK, Directed by Sidney Lumet, starring Peter Finch (recently staged as a play in London), where the Game Show was used as framework for a fierce social critique. It was horrifyingly amusing and damned confronting in its philosophical musings.

WHOSE UTERUS IS IT ANYWAY? does not honestly represent "Sydney's fiercest female theatre makers exploring new ideas', the stated aim of this inaugural work for the FreshWorks Femme season. Nor, did, by-the-way, the recent STC production of ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST, give us anything too fierce to deal with. So, might I recommend Betty Grumble's, LOVE AND ANGER. Now there is FIERCE. And you can get to see it at the Griffin SBW Stables Theatre early in February next year.

The show at the Old 505 Theatre is a light weight escapade - a silly night in the theatre, easy to enjoy.

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