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Vessel review at Underbelly, Edinburgh – ‘thoughtful exploration of abortion in Ireland’

Laura Wyatt O'Keeffe in Vessel at Underbelly, Edinburgh. Photo: Emma Micallef Laura Wyatt O'Keeffe in Vessel at Underbelly, Edinburgh. Photo: Emma Micallef

Abortion in Ireland is a knotty subject. Laura Wyatt O’Keeffe’s play Vessel attempts to untangle some of that complexity. With careful, fine detail, she peels apart family shame, personal freedom, societal privilege and the financial and human cost of the restrictive antiabortion laws leading up to the repeal of the 8th amendment.

O’Keeffe focuses on two unlikely allies. Tabloid journalist, David (Edward DeGaetano), writes about women’s experiences with abortion in Ireland. An immigrant teen he outs as a pregnant rape victim kills herself. Maia (O’Keeffe) knew the girl but failed to help her. Wounded by the guilt and wanting to do something, Maia publicly reveals her desire to get her own abortion. David writes about Maia’s situation and they grow closer. He accompanies her on her trip to get an abortion outside Ireland.

O’Keeffe’s performance is multilayered – she’s vulnerable, strong, fallible and human. Maia’s tally of everything she must pay for (taxis, hotel) to get her abortion is a keen detail in the script. When Maia leaves the stage during the abortion, David becomes the narrator. He centres his judgements and needs in an unwelcome turn. While he represents a different perspective on the issues, the absence of Maia’s voice is conspicuous.

Verdict
Thoughtful exploration of abortion question in Ireland, with strong performances
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