Reviewed – 19th October 2018
“Ultimately, the two strands explosively converge, unifying the themes and messages into a poignant harmony”
It’s not easy being a female actor; being subjected to vacuous roles that are simply there to support men, being told you have an expiry date, and fearing being exploited to serve the male gaze. And that’s just to name a few of the tribulations. Having to navigate all of that while also pregnant, I can only imagine to be a total nightmare. Lily Lowe-Myers and Robyn Cooper (who, yes, are pregnant) have created an opportunity for themselves with Welcome…?, a play which crucially is not just a good ‘pregnancy play’, but an intellectual and emotional power-punch in its own right.
Welcome…? sees two plot threads run parallel – that of Lowe-Myers attempting to write the play, and that of her attempts to play out the story being written in real time, featuring herself as Larissa, a scientist, and Cooper as Rachel Smith, a purposeless woman trying to create meaning in her life. The former plays out as a satirical critique on the opportunities and representation of pregnant women, as well as conventional story structures and the process of writing itself, while the latter explores the anxieties of finding meaning and purpose, and how those expectations can be imposed on babies. Ultimately, the two strands explosively converge, unifying the themes and messages into a poignant harmony.
The writing is sharp, creative, and delivered expertly by both Lowe-Myers and Cooper. Particular gems were a scene between Rachel Smith and her mother, in which the bar is raised for how much subtext an iron can deliver, and a scene in which the pair act out a plot created by a short story generator. Unfortunately, the crackling energy of these sequences, that is also aided by Matt Costain’s thoughtful direction, is fizzled out by some very long scene changes while the actors rearrange the largely unnecessary-feeling set.
Despite some stunted pacing, however, Welcome…? delivers a perfect blend of humour, pathos, and a keen perception of the world. It’s a galvanising work that makes bold and exciting strides in dramatising pregnancy in subversive ways, that is fully deserving of huge audiences.
Reviewed by Tom Francis
Bridewell Theatre until 2nd November