Alexandra Mardell, Edinburgh Fringe, Georgia Taylforth, Georgia Taylforth's Mine, Health, Hippolyte Poirier, Jack Coleby, JunkBox Theatre, Megan Pemberton, Pregnancy, Sebastian Blunt, SpaceTriplex, Surrogate Parenting, Theatre Review
Phew, what a relief! At last, I have located it – that play – that one stunning, standout play – the name that I will hear myself uttering automatically whenever people ask me, as they do a lot at the moment, “what do you recommend?” Now I can reply instantly and with a ring of certainty: “Mine” by Georgia Taylforth at the Space Triplex. This is that play – it has a charisma or a freshness that gives it the clear edge. It has also, however, just finished its run. For many dedicated theatregoers, this will be The One That Got Away. “Mine” has not been reviewed by any major publication.
Taylforth’s play puts a great taboo on stage: pregnancy. Millennials are having fewer babies than previous generations and they are having them later. To assume responsibility for a single eighteen-year project is anathema for a generation that typically can’t hold down a job for six months without wanting to suddenly do another degree. “Mine” studies three couples who each, eventually, commit. This unholy subject is depicted not just faithfully but earnestly. Chris (Sebastian Blunt) and Emma (Taylforth) are going to have a baby; the failed adopter Toby (Jack Coleby) and his friend Lauren (Megan Pemberton) are going to surrogate a gay-by; and the no-strings-attached Ben and Sophie (Hippolyte Poirier and Alexandra Mardell) are going to have a Tinder baby or, since Sophie is having second thoughts, a may-by.
The dialogue is snappy and imaginative. Horseplay with dart guns and weird pregnancy food combinations unfolds around a sofa that is sculpted from layered cardboard. In between scenes, the performers glide swiftly on and off the stage like ballroom dancers. Little things, such as the awkwardness every time that a Tinder chat gets going, or that uniquely informal atmosphere when random smokers start talking outside a nightclub, are captured with a close eye for detail. The writing is always so convincing that even the showy moments – such as when Chris tries to propose just as his partner is starting a blowjob – seem realistic and unforced. Yet the play soon loosens its grip on the humour. “Mine” is chiefly out to conduct a searching but not unkindly interrogation of pre-parenthood in the twenty-first century.
Although all of the performances are strong, “Mine” is made somewhat unbalanced by the extraordinary character at its heart. Lauren is flippant and wisecracking, apparently a normal Millennial, and so you become ever more flabbergasted by her goodness as the play continues. It helps that the actress is an effortless comic presence to begin with, giving her story a vital bed of rock upon which to build. Lauren is a figure of absolute selflessness and, moreover, one whose goodness you never really doubt in. Today’s feminists might be nonetheless made a little queasy by her. Is she so good because she is sexless and unthreatening? Does she merely represent a salvaging of that medieval claptrap about the Virgin Mary?
I suspect that any hint of Maria here is partially fatuous. The Angel of the Annunciation might have indeed impregnated Mary using a gigantic virginal pipette – no doubt this scene was left out of the Bible – but Lauren ultimately betters Mary’s porcelain goodness. She is an everyday character who has to make realistic sacrifices in order to help her gay friend have a baby.
It is Lauren’s story that transforms “Mine” into a standout play. It argues, innovatively, that a friendship can be just as deep and loving as a marriage. I am reminded of John Fitzpatrick’s “This Much,” the standout play from 2015, which had likewise waged that the world is too big these days for previous templates for relationships to keep their purchase. “Mine” is very similar to Fitzpatrick’s play in its assurance, atmosphere, and cogency.
There are still weaknesses to the writing. Ben and Sophie’s story is neglected for a long time and then it has to be quickly wrapped up, with too much of a resort to oratory. The ending of this play is also unsatisfactory, though I am not sure how you would exactly say goodbye to these characters. Their problems have obviously only just started.
Junkbox Theatre, the outfit behind “Mine,” seem to have botched their publicity. From the Fringe guide, “Mine” looks like another wacky undergraduate comedy rather than a thoughtful drama. When you walk into the theatre, there is a silly stunt in which condoms have been placed on every seat, as if theatregoers are being invited to have a contemplative post-play shag on the house. And now, in the ultimate indignity, this play is being championed on Tychy, an orphanage for unloved theatre. If you have a play that people need to see, then you should fight for it as though it was your starving baby.