Three years ago I took a bit of a chance on Theatre Re’s Blind Man’s Song, then last year it was the turn of The Nature of Forgetting – so it was only natural that I headed to Pleasance Beyond to see their new show, Birth at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Once again it has been conceived & directed by Guillaume Pigé and devised by the company, with original compositions from Alex Judd.
The focus here is on three generations of women from one family: Sue, Katherine and Emily. Emily is currently pregnant, and has started reading through her grandmother’s old diary that detailed her experiences as Katherine grew up, and later started a family of her own. She takes comfort in seeing history repeat itself as far as Katherine & her childhoods are concerned, and starts to dream about her future with her partner Sam and their son. But there’s a sad secret hidden away in the depths of the diary which shows that it’s not just the routine things that repeat over time…
As ever, Theatre Re aren’t shying away from the big issues, tackling the almost taboo subject of pregnancy loss with great sensitivity to create a show as beautiful as it is heartbreaking. For the most part it’s quite gentle and nice – a few ups and downs as people grow and change, but that’s to be expected in a family. It’s that single heart-stopping moment of clarity as Emily looks into Katherine’s eyes that changes everything; it all goes quiet & still for the briefest time, but that’s enough to compute the shared hurt & sadness that now exists between them. It’s an emotional punch to the guts that you simply don’t see coming.
As well as the characteristic expressive and, at times, playful movement, the company plays with the use of illusion as characters disappear and reappear from under tables and large sheets. Each transition is surprisingly mesmerising and keeps everything flowing at a good pace. Judd’s score works perfectly in tandem with the onstage action, soaring high and tugging on your heartstrings in equal measure.
Eygló Belafonte absolutely shines in the central role of Emily, overseeing her family history with wonder and getting well and truly stuck in when it comes to her part of the story. To go from hopeful highs to such devastating lows must really take it out of a performer, but Belafonte remains 100% committed to her storytelling throughout, guiding us through an important and emotional show.
My verdict? Through a combination of physical theatre and music, Theatre Re tell an emotional story that cries out to be heard – incredibly well performed and an absolute must-see.
Birth runs at Pleasance Courtyard (Beyond) until 25 August 2019. Tickets are available online or from the box office.