This response was produced as part of the #CircusVoices scheme for developing critical practice around circus arts.
Review from: Summerhall, Edinburgh Festival Fringe; 9th August 2018
Ethnicity: Northwest European
Background: Circus, visual arts
Egg is a solo circus/theatre show performed by Sarah Bebe Holmes. The show talks explicitly about IVF and the performer’s own experience of being a donor.
The mediums of expression in Egg are mainly text-based theatre and live music, with elements of aerial circus, live art and projection art. During the show, Sarah plays several characters: her younger self, her friend Carol (the recipient of the eggs she donated), and a dubious, caricatured medical professional. The changes of character are made clear as she changes her shoes every time she steps into a new role – personally I found this poetic, as it brings to mind the expression ‘walking a mile in someone’s shoes’. The musician (Balazc Hermann) also plays two characters – Pat (Carol’s partner) and the surgeon who removes Sarah’s eggs from her body.
At the start of the show, the audience enter into a small, circular room with red lighting and a heartbeat sound – an atmosphere made to re-create the womb. Sarah is hanging inside a clear plastic sack full of water, eyes closed, nude, curled up in the foetal position. It feels eerie, like this is a laboratory where strange things are kept in jars, to be experimented on later. The set design is expressly clinical, minimal with a lot of white and clear plastic.
To start the show, Sarah opens the bottom of the sack and falls out in a rush of water and there is a blackout. After this the stage lights come on and, without ado or explanation, Sarah dries herself off, dresses and starts with her monologue. What I appreciate here is the nudity without fuss or comment. It’s the state of being for the moment and, for an Edinburgh Fringe audience, it’s neither shocking nor controversial.
The show is in fact very educational. I knew next to nothing about IVF before watching it, but during the course of the show I not only learned a lot of biological details about women’s fertility and the physical effects of the treatment Sarah went through, but also about the emotional effects that IVF can have on all people involved. One specific moment stands out to me – when the shape of female reproductive organs are projected on to the back of the musician’s double bass, to illustrate the effect that the hormonal treatments have on the body of the donor – simply because I find it beautiful and because I’ve often experienced this instrument compared to the shape of a woman’s body. Another is where the performer explains that the swelling of the ovaries makes her incredibly horny, “But I can’t get laid”, she explains, “Because I could end up pregnant with 30 babies”. The differences between treatment methods in different countries are not made explicit, but this was Sarah’s experience.
This show comes under the heading of ‘circus’, and Sarah Bebe Holmes is primarily an aerial circus artist, so I find it necessary to talk about the use of the aerial techniques in the show. Sarah uses long, clear plastic sheets and flexible tubes in the same way that you might see other artists using a rope or silks apparatus. Although the plastics lend themselves well to the aesthetic of the whole and Sarah uses them confidently and competently, they add more to the visual effect of the show than they do to the narrative.
Go see it if you like: educational performance, women’s issues presented on stage, emotionally moving performance, tangible expressions of pain, disturbing imagery
Don’t go if you want to see: crass humour, spectacle, light-hearted playfulness, absurdity, children’s shows, audience interaction, clowns, 300 backflips in succession.