Eggistentialism by Joanne Ryan – Summerhall, Edinburgh

Joanne Ryan’s one woman show is reckoning with middle age. Reaching 35, she claims that if she died in an accident it would no longer be a tragedy. Having arrived at the point of no return for having children, she attempts to make a decision, which proves practically impossible. Ryan makes this much more than an exercise in self-examination. She is funny, very funny, and so is her aging mother who makes tart, pre-recorded additions to the story. And she is politically very aware.

From Limerick, it soon becomes obvious to Ryan that her own fertility cannot be separated from the history of sex in the post-war Republic of Ireland. She belongs to the first generation in a position to decide whether to have children. When she was born, at the start of the 1980s, rape was legal in Eire, contraception illegal, and the doctor who examined her pregnant mother offered to have the child taken away. How far women have gained in the short time since is the real subject of the show. Ryan is a charming and astute performer and she hits home by showing personal experience as inextricably, unavoidably political.

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