Joanne Ryan’s new one-woman show takes a hilarious walk through 100 years of Irish women’s fertility, as the actor comically ponders the plethora of issues surrounding that one big question: To be, or not to be a mother? With razor sharp wit and honesty, the show tackles all the cultural, societal and personal considerations that Irish women face when answering one of life’s major questions.Eggistentialism will run at Belltable Limerick from 8th-10th September before moving on to Tiger Dublin Fringe.
Tell us about Eggistentialism – why did you decide to, in your own words, look down the barrel of your final fertile years?
The seeds of the show were actually sown at HatchLK’s first year in 2014 – we were doing an exercise where we were asked to freestyle and talk about things we are afraid of.
I was getting into my stride listing all the things I feared, the clock was ticking down on my turn and I remember ending my rant by blurting out “… AND, I don’t know whether or not if I should have a baby!” I honestly don’t know where it came from – it was something I had been pretty ambivalent about until then.
But it must have been at the back of my mind – the course took place around my 35th birthday, so I was heading towards the fertility ‘drop off’ point. I started talking to friends and I realised it’s a question which has so many social, psychological, ethical, physical and practical implications for everyone who faces it – it’s the only irreversible decision in life that we make, and if I didn’t start thinking about whether or not I did want to be a mother, it simply wouldn’t happen. With 2016 being a centennial year I thought it would be interesting to go through 100 years of Irish motherhood to look at societal attitudes and changes. That makes it sound like the show is going to be really serious: I promise it is really funny too!
What else can we expect from the show?
It’s a moving and tender comedy, a complete exploration of fertility, the complexities and contradictions of deciding whether to reproduce – it includes input from fertility experts, philosophers, even fortune tellers, and my own family – my mum’s voice features a lot. It’s been a fascinating journey and one I’ve learned a lot from.
What do you think about the conversations around women, work, fulfillment and family in 2016?
Things have of course broadly changed in 100 years, but there are some things that are slow to move on. I mean just look at maternity and paternity leave – only this year are fathers getting state funded paternity leave, and even then it’s only two weeks. A recent UN study showed that the percentage of Irish women doing free childcare is one of the highest in the world at 93%. That’s a cultural and societal tragedy for everyone.
I found a book at my mother’s – it was from the 1980s and was titled Having Your First Baby After 30, which was probably very cutting edge at the time! It seemed to feature a lot of pubic hair, but the really startling part was the chapter dedicated to fathers and fatherhood, featuring the revelation that men over 30 ‘may’ actually “enjoy babysitting…” Shock fact! But, when you think about it, how many times you’ve heard friends with children talking about the dad ‘minding’ the kids? And I know fathers themselves who do it too. These are the sorts of smaller things that feel like we’ve moved on from, but the change is in a vacuum.
How different is Eggistentialism to your previous work?
This show is completely different to anything I have done before – I’ve never written a full script and performed it, I’ve never done a solo show before, and I’ve never done something that bears so much personal stuff – it’s been challenging but also very exciting to grow and develop and push myself as an artist and actor.
The launch is taken place at Belltable and then the show will go to Dublin Fringe, how are you feeling about both?
Great! It’s taken a lot of work and I’m delighted to have the support of the Arts Council, Lime Tree Theatre, Belltable, Fishamble: The New Play Company’s New Play Clinic Scheme, Irish Theatre Institute, Limerick City and County Arts Office and Temple Bar Cultural Trust and Tiger Dublin Fringe.
What do you hope people will take from the show?
Well I hope they will laugh! I hope they will learn a lot too, there’s so much information in the show and I think when it’s distilled in one sitting with humour people tend to retain the information. I hope it resonates and encourages further discussion on the outside, and that goes for men as well as women – obviously the biological clock makes it a more pertinent issue for women but the question of parenthood and the applies to potential fathers too.
Article by: Kayleigh Ziolo
Photography by: Eoghan Lyons
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