Culture critic Ruth Horsburgh is left disappointed by Son of a Preacher Man, a new jukebox musical based on the songs of Dusty Springfield.Written by Ruth Horsburgh on 14th September 2017
Review: ‘A Womb of One’s Own’
Becky Bryant reviews this rip-roaring, delightfully rude and taboo challenging play, brought to Birmingham by the Wonderbox theatre company
“Grandmamie, if no-one touches my boobs before I’m 21 I’m going to explode all over the net curtains from pent- up sexual frustration!”
“This is a production of filthy comedy and hard-hitting politics
This is A Womb of One’s Own, an innovative and inspiring physical theatre production brought to the Old Joint Stock Theatre by Wonderbox, an all-female creative company. The production follows Babygirl, an eighteen-year-old student raised in a strict Catholic upbringing by her Grandmamie and Great Aunt Mildred. We watch as Babygirl encounters a journey of self and sexual discovery as she enters the spirit of Fresher’s Week, becoming accustomed to clubbing, alcohol and sex. This is a production of filthy comedy and hard-hitting politics. It is powerfully thought-provoking, exploring controversial issues, including religion, sexuality and abortion, prompting the audience to think and talk about these topics long after the production is over, breaking the taboo.
The production defies categorisation, weaving together different styles and constantly pursues skillful and daring forms of physical theatre, giving the audience a visual and aural experience to engage with.
“The piece interweaves familiar scenarios of coming of age and university life, including awkward flirting and sexual mishaps, all to demonstrate the raw authenticity of the human experience
The Four female actresses: Claire Rammelkamp, Carla Garratt, Danica Corns and Larissa Pinkham engage with the audience, as four different voices and perspectives of Babygirl. They are a tight and flawless ensemble, using innuendos, “How am I ever going to get a sausage in my roll?” and hilarious anecdotes, including masturbation with a hairbrush, emphasizing the innate honesty and relatability of Babygirl and her story. The piece interweaves familiar scenarios of coming of age and university life, including awkward flirting and sexual mishaps, all to demonstrate the raw authenticity of the human experience. The actresses are particularly impressive in their range of accents and ability to multi-role from Babygirl to various other people Babygirl encounters, including fellow students and unsympathetic hospital staff. Babygirl’s desire for independence is demonstrated through honest and hilarious revelations (reminding the audience that this production is not for the easily offended), but also explores uncertainty around religion as Babygirl is tormented through her imagination of God watching her throughout her experiences. The aim of the production is to demonstrate to audiences the need to self-explore and break through these concerns. Therefore, throughout this production, the audience are kept laughing, whilst continually reminded of the serious message underpinning the piece.
“Exploring what makes pregnancy a taboo is at the forefront of this piece
Babygirl’s sexuality is explored through her finding love with a female student, only to discover she is pregnant from a previous one-night stand. Exploring what makes pregnancy a taboo is at the forefront of this piece, and the topic of abortion is discussed sensitively. The actresses carefully present an understanding of the emotional turmoil Babygirl goes through, but also a profound passion for a pro-choice perspective without judgement. Elements including bringing in ‘Call the Midwife’, is an incredibly effective aesthetic choice, because it stimulates discussion of really how far society has moved in their response to pregnancy, when abortion still very much remains a taboo. For me, the most inspiring element to come out of this production was the ensemble’s emphasis that you are not alone in this process; there are always people who want to help and support you through your choice, if you will let them. It was also particularly encouraging to see a diverse audience, of different ages and genders all engaging with and responding to the performance.
Overall, the production’s aim to give a voice to the unheard and explore various taboos was productive and effective. The audience leave empowered, having seen the authentic human experience through someone else’s eyes, and an understanding that it is crucially important to be able to talk about these issues, without judgement or fear of retribution.