Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Choices – unspoken, unsupported, unexpected, taboo, painful and personal stories of reproductive justice #outburst18

There’s a sense that in order to do Stacey Gregg’s Choices justice, a review would need to be as eloquent and beautifully crafted as her 45 minute one-woman speech. Her delivery feels natural and heartfelt, spellbinding her listeners with the same magnetism as poet Gail McConnell summons up when she recites Type Face.

Two empty chairs sit to either side of a central lectern behind which Gregg stands with her legs crossed and addresses the audience directly. She takes us into the lives of two women whom we imagine sitting on the chairs in theatres, departure lounges, waiting rooms, and of course the living rooms in which so little of the complexity of their reproductive journeys are actually discussed.

Through the hopes and dreams of Oonagh and Holly we are confronted with the less hopeful and less dreamy reality of reproductive justice. One woman wants to conceive but can’t, the other is pregnant but didn’t plan to be. Through both of their situations we are challenged by what is unspoken, unsupported, unexpected, taboo, painful and incredibly personal.

Gregg’s Granny – “a woman who got things done” (often with a hatchet) – pops into the narrative. We’re told about vaginal mucus, IUI, IVF, donor sperm, and non-birth stories which are hidden in full sight. We’re reminded of the photo of a refugee mother washing her newborn baby Bayan outside her tent in the (now-closed) Idomeni camp in Greece.
“We’re at the centre of our stories, but not necessarily the ones at the centre of telling them.”

So often other people give voice to what individual women experience, appropriating their stories, usurping representation whether well-meaning or following an agenda. Choices can be curtailed and constrained.

Gregg leans forward and emphasises particular voices and thoughts into a mic, adding accents to phrases with her expressive hands. She goes up and down the gears as her characters meander towards their mundane destinations. At one point the pace ramps up to the extent that words are dropped from sentences in the urgency of expression, followed by long moments of silence as what is unsaid speaks ever so loud and clear.

What happened at the conclusion of the performance was remarkable. After the applause died down, people stayed in their seats. There was no rush for the door or the toilet or the bar. Some people talked quietly to their companions. Others sat in silence in their own thoughts.

Tickets are still available for Tuesday evening’s performance of Choices (8pm in The MAC) as part of the Outburst Queer Arts Festival which will be followed by a panel discussion. Choices was originally commissioned by the Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester as part of the B!RTH debate.

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