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7th November 2016

Review: B!RTH Festival’s USA & Brazil

The Royal Exchange Theatre opened its third day of the B!RTH festival with a bang, with two plays covering the experiences from Brazil and the USA

The B!RTH festival aims to explore the relationship of birth and motherhood across the globe. It is a great way to exhibit the contrast of birth customs and traditions using the form of drama. The audience views discussions on some of the most intimate parts of everyday lives as we are transported across a range of differences in experience, opinion and time.

Opening the evening was the USA, the performance explores the choices open to women across the century, from the modern hospitals of 1916, to the hippy vibe in 1966 and finally the determination to move back to more natural, less hospital dominated birth in 2016. It opened up a range of question of tradition to modern medicine — is there really one way of giving birth that is the best?

It should be a choice made on individual preference, desires, and needs. Not a one suits all model. The range of characters was engaging, representing the new found America and the problems each couple encountered. The only disappointing aspect was each actor was restricted in the staging, they were unable to move away from their chair, and subsequently stuck in one position. This dramatic dialogue required more expression then the staging allowed, a slight disappointment to an incredible piece of theatre.

The second production was based in Brazil, a solo performance with maximum impact. It presented one Brazilian women’s experience alongside her ancestors. Making full use of the stage, she demonstrated the contrast in traditions and customs of her mother and grandmother to her own, more modern choice of birth. It was a clever piece of theatre, introducing intertextuality with her own memory, her mother’s voice on the phone, and letters from previous generations. Just as we thought the piece had ended, it took a dramatic turn. The political inspired voice rang across the stage, detailing the horrors and concerns of the Zika virus, an all too common problem across Brazil. As the piece closed, the audience was left pondering, questioning how a substantial problem has been left in the side-lines.

To end the evening, there was Q&A session with the actors, writers, and programme director of the B!RTH festival. A detailed discussion followed, enhanced with personal stories and recollections while bigger political questioned were proposed. It was an engaging and insightful evening, opening my eyes to an aspect of life so personal, yet so different around the world.

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