Tag Archives: Jai Morjaria

Mary’s Babies

Mary’s Babies
★★★

Jermyn Street Theatre

Mary’s Babies

Mary’s Babies

Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewed – 22nd March 2019

★★★

 

“a hugely ambitious play that doesn’t quite succeed in its intentions”

 

In the 1930s, Dr Mary Barton and her husband, Dr Bertold Wiesner, founded one of the first clinics to treat infertility with donor insemination. Because the practice was new, there were no regulations regarding donor selection. Barton said she had a small pool of select donors, but thanks to DNA testing, we now know the majority of the 1,500 women who were treated by Barton were inseminated with Wiesner’s sperm.

Written by Maud Dromgoole and directed by Tatty Hennessy, Mary’s Babies imagines various intersecting lives of a handful of people who discover they share Wiesner’s DNA. There’s considerable skill in Dromgoole’s windows into lives that are rich, genuine, and occasionally touching. However, despite the creative team’s best efforts to maintain clarity, with just two actors multi-roling so many different characters with such abrupt alternation, a lot is lost in the shuffle.

Katy Stephens and Emma Fielding take on a total of thirty-nine different characters, although the play primarily revolves around five. Stephens and Fielding are strong performers (they admirably handled a technical difficulty which stopped the show midway), and Stephens in particular impresses with her vivid transformations. An ingenious set design (Anna Reid) that displays the names of the characters on a wall, which light up according to who is in each scene, is indispensable.

But even with first-rate multi-roling and displayed character names, the play can be difficult to follow. Hennessy’s choice of minimalism for an informationally dense piece, and Dromgoole’s choppy, short scenes with vague dialogue, leave large gaps for meaning to fall through. Entire scenes often hinge on one word that is too easily lost. I missed the word ‘eulogy’ in the opening monologue, so didn’t get why Stephens was reading off a script, thinking it couldn’t be possible she didn’t have the lines memorised. I missed the word ‘polydactyl’ in another scene, and was perplexed by the fuss about Stephens’ hand.

Additionally, the characters’ ages don’t transmit well. A reveal toward the end that two characters are twins doesn’t click; I spent the performance believing one was about ten years younger than the other. All of them, who are dating and planning/having children, seem to be in their thirties. Kieran, arguably the main character, comes off as early twenties. They jar with the maths, which says their age range is forty to eighty (the play takes place in 2007 and the clinic closed in 1967). It’s evident Dromgoole wanted to write younger characters. The play may have been stronger if it were set in the present, about a fictional artificial insemination scandal in the 1980s.

This is a hugely ambitious play that doesn’t quite succeed in its intentions. Too much visual and verbal information fails to communicate. The script seems better suited to film, which would solve a lot of its problems.

 

Reviewed by Addison Waite

Photography by Robert Workman

 


Mary’s Babies

Jermyn Street Theatre until 13th April

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Mad as Hell | ★★★ | February 2018
The Dog Beneath the Skin | ★★★ | March 2018
Tonight at 8.30 | ★★★★★ | April 2018
Tomorrow at Noon | ★★★★ | May 2018
Stitchers | ★★★½ | June 2018
The Play About my Dad | ★★★★ | June 2018
Hymn to Love | ★★★ | July 2018
Burke & Hare | ★★★★ | November 2018
Original Death Rabbit | ★★★★★ | January 2019
Agnes Colander: An Attempt At Life | ★★★★ | February 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

Cuzco

Cuzco
★★★

Theatre503

Cuzco

Cuzco

Theatre503

Reviewed – 29th January 2019

★★★

 

“A strong script keeps ‘Cuzco’ interesting, but the actors fail to live up to the words”

 

It has apparently been seven years since Theatre503 have programmed a piece of theatre in translation, and ‘Cuzco’, a poignant and symbolic play by Valencian playwright Víctor Sánchez Rodríguez, proves an intriguing way to end this hiatus.

Beginning in the Peruvian city of Cuzco, Dilek Rose and Gareth Kieran Jones play an unnamed couple on holiday, passing through Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes on their way to Machu Pichu. Told through scenes in various hotel bedrooms, the couple’s journey of self-discovery quickly turns self-destructive, and, in the end, the fate of their relationship hangs in the balance.

William Gregory’s elegant translation maintains the Spanish background of the characters, allowing the tensions between tourism and a fraught colonial history to come front and centre. As the woman, Dilek Rose wanders the cities’ streets getting into fights with tourists, but bringing an Andean boy to bathe in their hotel room is the final straw for her partner. The woman’s arch frustrated to fulfilled is well-realised and convincingly played by Rose, whereas Jones, increasingly exasperated as the man, seems monochromatic and flat. They never quite gel as a couple, meaning the slow death of their relationship feels a dull inevitability.

Kate O’Connor directs, and in conjunction with Jai Morjaria’s effective lighting, creates some lovely stage imagery, particularly in the woman’s final few scenes bathing and partying. Although the use of monologue in the script offers some eloquent prose for each actor to chew on, the decision to play these stories facing out pulls focus to the audience rather than the couple, and means the impact of the words often fails to land.

A strong script keeps ‘Cuzco’ interesting, but the actors fail to live up to the words, and considering how important chemistry is in two-handers like this, it’s a real shame. Born from the work of the Out of the Wings Collective, Gregory’s translation expertly showcases the vitality of theatre translation, and we can only hope for more theatres to programme work like this.

Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich

Photography by Holly Lucas

 


Cuzco

Theatre503 until 16th February

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Her Not Him | ★★★ | January 2018
Br’er Cotton | ★★★★★ | March 2018
Reared | ★★★ | April 2018
Isaac Came Home From the Mountain | ★★★★ | May 2018
Caterpillar | ★★★★ | September 2018
The Art of Gaman | ★★★★ | October 2018
#Hypocrisy | ★★★½ | November 2018
Cinderella and the Beanstalk | ★★★★ | December 2018

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com