If you could design your own baby what would it look like? Eye colour? Number of toes? Pigmentation? Shouldn’t queer womxn have the right to shared genetics with their child?
These are just some of the questions posed in Lauren Gibson’s Be Longing.
The energy as I enter the room feels calming, on the stage there are around 5 baseball sized orbs and I feel as though I’m about to start a meditation session. This was a good headspace to be transported into as, particularly initially, there is a lot of quick dialogue and information to take in. The piece takes place throughout the lives of the two protagonists, Sigrid played by Lauren Gibson (playwright and actor-busy womxn!) and Jim played by Keagan Carr Fransch, chopping and changing between various points in their relationship. Initially the scene changes do seem a little too frequent but at least it means the audience doesn’t have time to become bored. Indeed, I felt on tenterhooks throughout.
Their conversations range from topics such as Sigrid dying her hair green to whether they should have a ‘test tube baby,’ (did I mention it’s set in the future) using the two womxn’s eggs and no sperm. Now, this may sound like an eggcellent (sorry) idea, it certainly did to me at the time (matriarchy here we come!) but, as is mainly mouth-pieced by Sigrid, we soon learn the other side to the story, one that threatens a future of ‘perfect’ human beings. One that promises termination of an embryo that is in some way ‘imperfect.’ We have entered the ‘Argos of genetics’ as Sigrid puts it.
However, Jim’s counter argument is equally persuasive, she speaks of her long term desire to have a baby that shares both her and her partner’s geneticism, something that being queer has always rendered impossible.
As you can imagine these are big topics but they are tackled tactfully and delicately by our capable protagonists. To alleviate from the undeniable sadness woven through the piece, Gibson’s writing brings in both witty comedy and moments of calm, the latter a continuation of the energy we find when first entering the space, as the two womxn talk to the orbs as if they were their unborn child. These moments are mesmerising visually and aurally (they are accompanied by an ambient soundtrack that makes me feel Brian Eno himself is in the room) and their tenderness speaking to the orb reminds you that as well as what they’re planning being a subversive political statement its product will be an actual human being.
The onstage chemistry between Gibson and Fransch is effortless and thus believable, you almost forget you’re watching them on a stage. Their acting is committed and natural meaning we empathise through every moment. Even when Jim is explaining the science behind creating a human out of two eggs her (sorry again) eggsplanation is so sincere that we can believe it completely.
The piece is certainly clever, even the title- Be Longing is so apt for this piece as we see two womxn who are longing to belong. There is a horrible irony throughout at how their desire to be normal, to have a nuclear family with shared genetics, makes them appear to society as abnormal, just because they are suddenly making themselves visible. They receive an unjust amount of hate as they strive to subvert their assumed norms by fighting for the right to adhere to social norms.
Although set in a futuristic, distopian time the message of how queer people, and for that matter everyone who makes up the LGBTQ+ community, are still oppressed, marginalised and judged rings very relevant in 2020, even if we’re not having test tube babies yet. This piece of theatre is not only enjoyable but important.
Be Longing is playing at The Vaults Theatre until the 8th of February. For more information and tickets, see the VAULT Festival website.