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Melbourne Fringe - Eggsistentialism by Joanne Ryan

Joanne Ryan in Eggsistentialism
Photo by Ken Coleman

Irish performer and playwright Joanne Ryan doesn’t know if she wants to have children. Don’t get her wrong, against the backdrop of Ireland’s history of restrictions on reproductive rights, she loves having a choice, she’s just having a hard time making a decision.

Eggsistentialism is a funny and frank look at a series of questions that must occur to all women at some stage in their lives. Do I want to have children? And what will that mean for my life? And what will it mean for the child?

Joanne knows that women from her mother’s generation had less choice in the matter; another woman her father got pregnant had to carry the child, only to have it taken away and given up for adoption. Her own mother would have been in the same situation, but she ran away to London and slept on a friend’s couch. That was in 1980.

One woman, one couch, a phone, a multi-media presentation and a brilliantly blunt voiceover from her mother, Joanne’s show is simple in its presentation and powerful in its execution. It explores her relationship with her parents and with a relatively new boyfriend. It explores the role of men in the household, both traditionally and how things mostly haven’t changed. It’s deeply personal and aggressively political.

The history of Ireland’s laws relating to contraception and abortion is tied closely with the Catholic Church and on these issues it was a particularly regressive Western country even up until this year. Placing Joanne’s decision-making against this backdrop gives elevates the show, although the writing itself and her laid-back Irish demeanour can make you laugh and cry without the oppressive history that comes from the country where she was raised.

Eggsistentialism is a beautifully-formed autobiographical show that Joanne Ryan has given birth to. I’m glad she’s taken this baby of hers out into the world.

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