Eggsistentialism, as suggested by the title, follows the autobiographical story of Joanne Ryan, in her dilemma about having a child (or not).
The show is being described as a “private” story. Ryan intimately opens up to the audience about her father’s death and being raised by a single mother. As well having a tender and intimate tone, there is an educational strand in the play: Ryan informs the audience on the history of reproductive rights in Ireland. Ryan cleverly uses the aid of multimedia, with sound recordings of her mother’s voice interjecting during her monologues and 3D landscapes to create setting. There is a curious juxtaposition between the comedy of the animations and PowerPoints, whilst also having sobering undertones when remembering women tragically affected by Ireland’s conservative reproductive laws, such as Savita Halappanavar who died in 2012 after being refused an abortion when miscarrying. Ryan honestly criticises her home country in its treatment of women, which is a brave statement to make.
As well as being historically and socially informative, Eggsistentialism explores the personal crisis (most) woman face when deciding on whether to have children or not. The title of the show is more than a great pun, as Ryan is indeed having an existential crisis in front of her audience. When making her pros and cons list, Ryan hypothesises her personal impact on the world by having a child. A pro of having a child is building upon the progress humanity has made recently, or as a con your child could just end up being a murderer. Ryan also touches upon population, with children being a huge carbon footprint, but also being a saving grace for the economy in countries such as Germany and Japan: did you know in Japan adult nappies outsell baby nappies? There are so many layers to the issue of whether to reproduce or not, and in a mere 70 minutes Ryan explores them all in great depth.
the societal dichotomy created between mothers and fathers. Mothers are harshly judged whilst fathers struggle to be taken seriously
Ryan’s performance is vastly rich, with her ability to constantly make the audience laugh whilst nailing moments of intimate tenderness and despair. Veronica Coburn’s direction must also be commended, as the arch of the show flows so organically and the technical elements blend with Ryan’s performance solidly. It is also interesting to consider their choice of venue: a lecture theatre in Summerhall, which actually works amazingly well with the educational element of the play.
Eggsistentialism is rich in its exploration of reproduction. It is deeply personal as Ryan is honest and confessional with her audience, whilst also being universally important by exploring the history and sociology behind women’s reproductive rights. The play also goes beyond reproduction, and questions gender roles in general. For example, Ryan touches on the societal dichotomy created between mothers and fathers. Mothers are harshly judged whilst fathers struggle to be taken seriously. Thus, Eggsistentialism, whilst focusing on a woman’s perspective, appeals to all people of any gender, whether they have children or not. The show explores society throughout history, and how it is today.
Eggsistentialism is playing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, you can get tickets here.
Image: Ken Coleman