Catherine (Danielle Carter) is a privileged Australian attorney living in London. In her mid-40’s, she has endured 18 cycles of IVF and is now desperate to have a child. Nellie (Gabrielle Scawthorn) is her surrogate, a feisty, honest, God-fearing redhead from Boston. e-baby, Jane Cafarella’s first full-length play, tackles the sensitive and heart rendering issue of surrogacy.
We are welcomed aboard the rollercoaster of the IVF journey with two very different women. Their joy when Nellie announces “I’m preggos with your eggos”; their long distance correspondence conducted through emails, phone, text and Skype; through all the important milestones, their meetings in New York for medical appointments, ultrasounds and social occasions…
First she conceives triplets, but babies ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ aren’t without their own tribulations. There’s talk of possible birth defects and an abortion. Nellie’s Catholic beliefs and right to life views conflict with Catherine’s pragmatism, although sticky situations have been catered for in the complicated contract Catherine had drawn up prior to the surrogacy. Families, friends and colleagues have their own views surrounding the surrogacy, giving us insight into some of the current societal attitudes.
Catherine’s sideline interest is online www.gladpads.com (organic cotton sanitary pads for third world country women with inspirational graphics) while Nellie’s ‘Belly Blog’ is the platform where she shares her journey with other surrogates. It threatens to unravel when she’s very scathing about Catherine on her blog.
It’s hilariously funny (especially when it comes to Catherine’s obsessive ideas), bitter sweet, topical and raw. The characterisation is clever, well developed and multi-layered. It’s economic in having only two characters, but with plenty of mentions of both women’s spouses written into this comedy. The set design and visual effects reveal an impressive display of technology.
Watching e-baby gives you a sense that social media, technology and theatre have finally reached a clever and seamless integration. (MS)
Until Nov 13, varied performance times. Ensemble Theatre, 78 McDougall St, Kirribilli. $65-$73. Tickets & info: www.ensemble.com.au or (02) 9929 0644