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I Told My Mum I Was Going On an RE Trip review at Battersea Arts Centre – ‘an ambitious verbatim play’

The cast of I Told My Mum I Was Going on an RE Trip at Battersea Arts Centre, London

20 Stories High’s verbatim play I Told My Mum I Was Going on an RE Trip approaches the subject of abortion with playfulness and matter of factness in equal measure.

Assembled from interviews, it charts the real stories of four women, from pregnancy to termination to aftermath. The results are hugely energetic: Aizah Khan, Dorcas Sebuyange, Emma Burns and Jamie-Lee O’Donnell bounce around Miriam Nabarro’s design of four white islands, switching class, age, gender and nationality against a playlist of female-fronted pop, from MIA to TLC.

The performers are plugged into headphones a la Alecky Blythe, snippets of real speech played into their ears that they perform to us in turn. The recorded delivery is smartly done, side-stepping some of the problems of representation inherent in verbatim theatre: the performers’ delivery feels artless, the portable MP3 players a constant reminder of the real voices behind the script – and if they occasionally slip into broad caricature or wonky accents, it only adds to the chatty, youthful tone.

The array of experiences on show is dizzying but the script yearns for a little more focus. It is most hard-hitting on the surprising, forgotten perspectives: the doctors who perform the procedures (or opt not to), the male partners barred from attending medical appointments, and, shamefully close to home, the young Irish women making journeys overseas. By the end, it becomes a joy just to hear these young women speak so openly.

 

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Verdict
Sprawlingly ambitious verbatim play that takes pleasure in breaking the silence around abortion
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