Review: Be Born
Image: The Space
Christian Graham - Tyrice
Abigail Sewell - Shaz
David East - Ben
"In time … we are shaped by the people and things we interact with … like glass, blown by the flame.
We journey with those we value.
They help us emerge from darkness."
Ben is in trouble.
His ex-girlfriend is pregnant and he's just lost his job. So he seeks the only two people that might be able to help him.
But that means returning home, and he hasn't done that in 5 years.
The period of self-imposed exile is officially over.
Be Born is an exciting new collaboration from up and coming playwright Christian Graham and director Steph Hadfield.
Identity, friendship, sexuality - this is the uplifting story of three friends embarking on a journey of self-discovery from which there is no return.
The play contains strong language, which might not be suitable for very young viewers.
Dried leaves scattered liberally over the floor of the set here almost seem like ashes - the withered remains of a previous and, perhaps, more promising time.
Those artefacts seem symbolically appropriate for three people attempting to rekindle their friendship after a period apart.
We're in a "clapped-out", public playground where Shaz, Tyrice and Ben have fetched-up.
The place is familiar and resonant for them - a stomping ground, or possibly a kind of comfort zone that they used to frequent when they were younger.
They are now twenty-somethings who don't seem to have much going for them in their lives, and they've all had emotionally difficult issues to face in the recent past.
Substantial significance is focused on Ben's current situation.
We're told that he's about to become a dad and has to rush off at one point when his partner is thought to be in labour.
But there's a more complex story behind Ben's imminent fatherhood.
Though we spend the second part of this short new piece by Christian Graham in the company of these three friends, the first part (and a fairly hefty slice of it given the overall length of the work) is devoted to several people popping out from the audience and delivering poetic monologues.
That opening device has multiple concepts, ideas and voices embedded in it, and though some of those have links with the main section of drama which follows, it didn't help to clarify just where the play as a whole was heading.
However, once we get into the meat of it, the play seems to be saying that who we are and what we become is determined (at least in part) by those we choose to journey through life with.
Now that doesn't necessarily imply that our interactions with others will all be plain sailing and beneficial in themselves.
What it does mean is that our contact with others leads to our development as human beings.
In fact, the opening monologue about a boy and girl splitting-up illustrates that one can learn and move forward in life even from failed relationships and heartbreaking experiences.
And since that is chosen to commence proceedings, it might encompass the play's bigger intention.
I suspect, though, that this is one of those plays that will divide opinion about its precise nature - I certainly didn't feel comfortable that I fully understood just what it was trying to convey.
And though I found considerable empathy with the characters and the problems they had faced, I felt largely disconnected and remote from them, and never felt convinced that they really liked each other very much or particularly enjoyed each other's company.
Rather, they seemed drawn together more from expediency or maybe nostalgia than having a strong unswerving allegiance or magnetic bond.
So I was left wondering what had really brought them back together again - apart from Ben's urgent predicament.
Be Born is undoubtedly a poetic and thought-provoking piece but, overall, it leaves one undecided about its true intentions and the real motivations of the characters.
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