When a young, married couple decide to document their attempt to have children on Youtube, they are making themselves highly vulnerable… not least because it is a very personal subject, but also, because they are both women. They have decided use private sperm donation, and have chosen which of them is to be the biological mother.
After a quick blast of Ace of Base singing ‘all that she wants is another baby,’ we warm to the couple’s humour and enthusiasm, while asking the same questions: why do they want to make their lives so public? Melissa (Valerie Christiansen) is a pensive and gentle character, while Alice (Claire Stucki) is more forthright and effusive.
But when the comments start appearing, their vlogging generates both support and abuse, and Alice begins to ask herself about ‘normal’ parenting. While her ‘what-ifs’ are those of any parent-to-be, the one about the child growing up to resent her for not being a father hits a difficult note.
You’d expect, then, that the title of this piece is a reference to the LGBT rainbow, but the drama has an unexpected twist. When Melissa loses the baby mid-term, the vlog takes on a new significance. It makes little difference if one is in a same-sex relationship or not: a miscarriage is a heart-wrenching experience. A slightly impenetrable section of movement and video demonstrates this turmoil.
But when coupled with the judgement and hatred which social-media sadly solicits, the sense of being ostracised, or made to feel that the loss is your fault, is magnified. Bravely, Melissa continues to make the videos in order to help other people who go through this situation, even though she and Alice know that some viewpoints are never likely to change.
When, at the end, we are shown a definition of a “rainbow baby” (one that is born following a miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death or infant loss) on the backdrop screen, it becomes clear that, whatever your life-choices and sexuality, love and loss are universal. As the caption says, ‘In life a beautiful and bright rainbow follows a storm and gives hope of things getting better.’
This new production was devised by students from East 15 School of Acting, taking stories and experiences from the LGBT community. Using multi-media, storytelling, mime, and physical theatre, this was an ambitious project that benefitted most from the naturalistic acting, and careful directing of Michelle-Ariann Byrne. River Gypsy Productions will doubtless continue to develop and realise the work’s potential as they take it to other theatres and spaces.