After recent legislative change in Northern Ireland, abortion is now legal across the UK. Although there’s been a tidal shift in societal attitudes over time, having an abortion still remains a thorny conversation topic. Pro-life vs Pro-choice. Liberal vs Conservative. Regardless of how reasoned and measured you think your own views may be, you can find yourself on the firing line when confronted by someone who holds an opposing belief to yours.
Sonder, a new play by playwright Mimi Monteith, seeks to give a voice to both sides of this polarised debate.
The anxiety ridden Margo (Eleanor De Rohan) discovers that she is pregnant. She is certain that she does not want a child, but is unsure how her boyfriend of five years will react. James (Charlie Venables) and Olivia (Annabelle Dodd), are a married couple and Margo’s best friends. When they learn of the news, they want Margo to go through with the unwanted pregnancy. The piece ultimately explores whether it is solely Margo’s right to choose what happens to her body.
What this play captures very well, over a reasonably short period of time, are the behaviours we exhibit when it comes to discussing abortion.
The writing in this piece is brilliant and the small cast all deliver strong performances. In Sonder, we witness this constant tussle between the want to respect the perspective of someone who holds an opinion different to your own, and the need to defend and impose your own views. Jokes about golden showers and the World Cup are thrown in to relieve the tension in parts but the discussions are mostly fraught and tense. This struggle in how to communicate is also notably captured in the performances through the non-verbal cues; the gaps in conversations, the silent glances, the moments when someone begins to speak but doesn’t, which can all speak volumes.
The Bread and Roses Theatre is an intimate space and so the three-person cast remain in close proximity for the majority of the one act play. However as their divergent views are revealed, this separation is reflected by subtle changes in the blocking. Mimi Monteith, who also directs the piece, carefully positions how the married couple, Olivia and James, sit or stand in relation to Margo and these details certainly heightens the tension as the play progresses.
The piece delicately builds towards the final few scenes. As we approach the end, interesting comments are made about abortion laws in US and James challenges whether a woman’s right to choose is compatible with feminism and equality between men and women. But just as the characters begin to engage with and unpack the gritty substance of the debate on abortion, the piece ends fairly abruptly, so much so that the audience were unsure whether to clap at the end. Despite the somewhat disappointing ending, the piece holds a lot of promise and encourages a much needed dialogue around how we reconcile the need to respect the views of others even if we fundamentally disagree with what they say.
‘Sonder’ is running until at 23 February 2020 at the Bread and Roses Theatre.