views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Etcetera Theatre
1st August 2016


Ethan Taylor and Georgia Taylforth

Photography provided by the Camden Fringe

There's simply no avoiding it (and believe me, I've tried), once you get to a certain age, everyone seems to be pushing out babies left, right and centre. Georgia Taylforth's Mine follows the lives of three couples and inevitably, three babies. Chris (Patch Harvey) and Emma (Taylforth) have just got engaged, Ben (Ethan Taylor) and Sophie (Jenna Fincken) are committed to being uncommitted, and Toby (Jack Coleby) and Lauren (Megan Pemberton) are, well, they've never actually been together, but they're somehow having a kid together. It's all very modern and complicated. The circumstances in which all six individuals find themselves are very different, with Taylforth attempting to explore parenthood from as many perspectives as possible.

All the big, obvious questions are brought up. Whose right is it to choose? Whose right is to be a parent? Is there ever a right time to have a child? Do you need to become a parent to be truly fulfilled? Given the explosively emotive nature of all these, we don't get a global answer, nor should we really expect one. We do get to find out how these issues impact on the three couples. Would-be father Toby is arguably the most enthusiastic about fatherhood and yet as a single gay man, his options are the most limited. If not for best friend Lauren making him a remarkably selfless offer, he would be lost. Chris and Sophie are in a stable relationship and should be the most ready to cope with parenthood, but life's never that simple. Emma with all her medical training and back up contraceptive shouldn't even be pregnant, but again, that's life for you.

With so much going on, frequent scene changes are required to separate out the various subplots and keep the pacing up. Director Blake Barbiche expertly handles these transitions with charm. Rather than simple, traditional blackouts, the whole ensemble is used to create half-lit, energetic movement, with a skipping rope cleverly used to delineate the action whilst evoking thoughts of playground games and even an umbilical cord. Although perhaps we've just got babies on the brain and are reading too much into a long string. The accompanying music varies from reflective and poignant to wildly frantic. Each scene changeover becomes a meaningful part of the production rather than your typical nuisance to wait out. Oh yes, this is a director not simply going through the motions.

When not part of the main proceedings, rather than exit, the players rest at either side of the set, silently and seamlessly passing props on and off stage and awaiting their turn to quite literally skip back into the spotlight. It's an intelligent and stylish use of the space which works very well with black box theatre pub The Etcetera however would suit any other similarly blank canvas, making this a show with innate touring potential. Certainly, with a daytime slot in the Camden Fringe (always one of the hardest for which to shift tickets), I do fear that it won't get the audience it deserves this time and another run simply has to be on the cards.

If we're being picky, which, y'know, is point of being critics, having presented us with three couples facing different conflicts, it does feel like we've been cheated of a proper resolution for all of them. This only goes to prove just how emotionally invested we are. Indeed, what really makes Mine stand out is the strong characterisation. When deconstructing the production for the purposes of writing about it, it does seem like Taylforth has perhaps tried too hard to tick lots of boxes. In the moment though, none of that matters and it does work. The dialogue exchanged seems personal to each pair, peppered with history and sentiment. It's both gloriously funny and yet crucially, still so very natural. We find ourselves frequently laughing out loud, even sniffling a little in places.

A 70-minute roller-coaster of emotion, Mine is a thought-provoking, exciting piece of new writing that may be Who Said Theatre's baby, however that belongs to all of us. Whether the notion of parenthood prompts warm fuzzy feelings or pure dread, Mine is guaranteed to resonate deeply.

Mine opened on 1st August and runs until 3rd August 2016 at the Etcetera Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Northern)

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