A pregnant woman on stage continuously giving birth over and over and over again — and that’s just the beginning of this theatre piece performed by the captivating Olwen Fouéré. Those who have previously seen Fouéré on stage will be aware that they are about to experience something special.
“This isn’t a play that is being made by a script. It’s a piece that’s being created through the process of combining ideas through movement and design,” says Dublin based artist Maeve Stone.
The play will begin with “an exploration of the rituals of labours” — the physical aspect — which will see Fouéré heavily pregnant and having multiple births. The other parts of the play will revolve around that character’s transformation.
Audiences should expect the unexpected, as this will be an untraditional theatrical experience.
Playing with symbols, the piece is experiential and uses images to challenge the idea of a single narrative.
“It’s a really different way of working I suppose, but I think anyone who comes looking to engage with the body of the piece will find something familiar.”
The genesis occurred with discussions between Stone and Emma Valente of the Australian theatre company The Rabble.
“We had a symbiosis really quickly of artistic aesthetic, approach, and politics, and it was really exciting because it’s not very common that that happens.”
Stone, who was active in both the Waking the Feminists and Repeal movements (actually coining the name of the former) wanted to create a piece that explored the conversations around female bodily autonomy, including engagement with the abortion narrative as a political motif.
Research for the project involved reading various types of literature, including plenty of Irish and Australian government legislation. Stone and The Rabble also took inspiration from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaids Tale, where the term Unwoman refers to the undesirables (lesbians, sterile, unmarried, women incapable of social integration).
“I always imaged [the definition of] Unwoman as being all of the versions of women who don’t fit with the perfect ideal — the woman who does it wrong. It’s interesting because when you think about it, that’s everyone. Nobody is satisfying the ideal mold of womanhood.”
The ideas and themes in the show include the expectations that society brings to women at any stage of fertility, and the politics of control of the female body in issues of pregnancy, abortion, menopause, and infertility.
“Because it’s been in such a long development, we at the time couldn’t have imagined that a referendum would be held and be successful — you could dream about it — but the reality of it was not something that we expected when we began the project. So, it’s been interesting to continue that conversation in preparation for the production this September given how much has changed in Ireland in the last six months.”
The full play will eventually have two more parts added to it and will be performed in its entirety next year in Australia.
Words: Rose Ugoalah
In The Samuel Beckett Theatre previews Saturday September 8 – 9. Opens Monday September 10 to Sunday September 16 @ 19:30 (no performance on the 11th) with matinee performance @ 14.30 on the 15th.