There or Here
Reviewed – 25th January 2018
“The play teeters toward melodrama in the second half as the plot takes an unexpected turn”
In recent times almost no industry has been spared from jobs being outsourced overseas, but in There or Here the audience are asked what happens when life, or at least the gestation of it, is outsourced? Written by Jennifer Maisel, There or Here looks at the relationship between reproductive autonomy and parenthood, fertility tourism, marital disconnect and emigrant connection to their birthplace.
Robyn and Ajay (played by Lucy Fenton and Chris Nayak), are an American couple desperate to make plans for the future before the present catches up with them. Robyn’s cancer diagnosis has brought an immediacy to decisions about starting a family and so, wanting a child that is biologically theirs, the couple seek out a surrogate in India.
The play is set in early 2006 but alternates between past and present, centring around the week the couple spend in India arranging the surrogacy. Both Fenton and Nayak give convincing performances at such a critical juncture in any relationship.
Apart from the outsourcing central to the plot, we see other forms of outsourced labour made possible by technology in a globalised world. With the cancer and surrogacy causing a strain on their relationship, Robyn and Ajay talk very little to each other, preferring instead to open up to a technical support operator, drive-through attendant or even phone-sex worker. Rakhee Thakrar is versatile as all three and more, although underutilised as merely a sounding board for the leads monologued frustrations. Ursula Mohan and Manish Ghandi double up as the surrogate’s doctor and husband in India and Robyn’s mother and mother’s much younger toy boy in America, for some light comic relief.
The play teeters toward melodrama in the second half as the plot takes an unexpected turn. It feels as if Maisel is trying to cover too much ground and given the complex themes would have benefitted from a less confused outcome.
There or here was produced by Special Relationship productions, whose mission is to “find work that features underrepresented demographics”, boasting for this production “an entirely female, BAME, and/or LGBTQ+ cast and crew”, something that unfortunately is still all too rare in British Theatre. It is the combination of the authentic performances, sound, visuals and set under Vik Sivalingam’s direction that make for an overall engaging and thought provoking show.
Reviewed by Amber Woodward
Photography by Ikin Yum
There or Here
Park Theatre until 17th February