Abigail Bryant reviews Eggsistentialism at Arcola Theatre
At a time when the very notions of motherhood and reproduction are rich with fluid debate, Joanne Ryan’s Eggsistentialism is a poignant, engaging and illuminative exploration of gender and fertility. Narrated autobiographically, 35-year-old Joanne invites us to delve into her innermost private concerns and predicaments about the ultimate conundrum at her stage of life: Should making a life for oneself involve making another?
With the help of ‘trusty’ Google, as well as hilariously dated books which cast an insightful spotlight on cultural progression over the last thirty years, Joanne weights up the ‘pros and cons’ of becoming a biological mother while she still can, citing both immortal legacy and future ‘tech support’ as valid reasons to reproduce, as well as equally diverse arguments for not bringing a child into the world as it looks today. While much of the production is genuinely funny and warm, there are also moments of sincerity and anguish, providing the perfect balance of reflection, humour and a moving examination of feminist ideologies and contemporary barriers to having children. Although Joanne is compelling and captivating in everything she does, intelligent audio-visual technology dotted throughout the one hour performance also plays a key role in moving the narrative along, whilst also creatively portraying a chronological account of societal structures in Ireland.
Eggsistentialism is by no means a story exclusively for modern straight women – it addresses universal themes that are fundamentally human and accessible to anybody. Joanne’s no-nonsense relatability and impeccable wit make for an evening of laughter and warmth, but most importantly opens up an interesting and essential conversation about the societal and cultural values we place on fertility and reproduction. The climax of the play is truly life-affirming and endorses a positive and inclusive ideology: life is wonderfully and brutally colourful however you decide to live it.
More information about Eggsistentialism can be found here