Review: Dead or Alive?
Image: Hindell Productions
Joanna Cordle - The Woman
Nik Salmon- The Man
Natasha Jacobs - The Girl Embryo
James Glyn - The Boy Embryo
Lucy Hilton-Jones - XX
Aaron Kehoe - XY
A pregnant woman ponders whether to abort the twin embryos she is carrying and discusses it directly with them.
One of them wants the right to live, while the other respects her mother's decision.
Her tentative intention to abort is forcefully challenged by a modern prince charming, the putative father.
The situation is further complicated when two strange creatures emerge from "inner space".
Ultimately, the woman must choose the fate of her unborn children.
Veteran broadcaster Keith Hindell's new play Dead or Alive? examines abortion at a time when a woman's right to choose is still limited by law, although medical advances have made the procedure safer and easier than ever before.
The Abortion Act 1967 came wholly into force over 50 years ago, on 27 April 1968 to be precise.
Half a century later, with advances in medical science offering simpler and safer methods of abortion, it might seem timely to re-examine the issues again, and tidy-up relevant laws.
At least that appears to be writer Keith Hindell's intention in this work which seems prompted not merely by the anniversary of the law but also the invention of effective pills which leave women with a do-it-yourself method of abortion.
But that radical scientific advancement is rather sidelined in this play which examines many of the well-worn issues about abortion, including the rights of the unborn child, parents and even grandparents.
Mr Hindell's approach is to find dramatic mechanisms in which to encapsulate the discussion of the issues.
Essentially, he focuses on one woman who is pregnant with twins.
And, almost at the start, we find her deliberating with ... her unborn children!
This somewhat novel device never feels appropriate or very comfortable viewing as it is tinged with a playfulness - which is obviously intentional - but which clashes with the seriousness of the subject, even if the unborns raise important issues about their rights.
More oddly, these two embryos have differing opinions about what their mother should do - one supportive of her mother's desire for an abortion and willing to simply fade out of the picture, and the other desperately wanting to live.
The feeling of inappropriate comic playfulness gets reinforced when two overly large sperm fetch up, complete with wiggling tails.
Injected between the scenes with the children and the sperm, we do find some more gritty exchanges between the "prince charming" father of the children and their mother which ameliorates some of the negatives of the sperm and children scenes, but can't wholly override them.
Though there's no question that humour and novel plot concepts are perfectly valid and potent means of facilitating consideration of urgent, or life and death issues, the approach here simply feels awkwardly contrived.
The concept might have worked better if the children had had more quirky, off-beat and provocative views to air, and for the humour to be more exaggerated.
As it stands, much of the play simply recycles old standpoints, even if it also highlights recent developments in medicine.
I don't doubt the writer's integrity, nor the obvious necessity of looking afresh from time to time at important social issues in the light of both scientific inventions and changing attitudes.
For some, the matters raised here will feel like fighting again a battle they thought had long-since been won.
Even so, changes to the law would seem to be required to clarify and guarantee women's rights.
In that sense, this 'drama in the womb' might be timely, even if it lacks the means to re-examine the issues satisfactorily, or to provide compelling theatre.
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