REVIEW: Traverse Breakfast Plays: B!rth (So Far As a Century’s Reach)


By Isabella Fraser

Simply staged with stands and chairs, the five strong cast delivers an emotive and stirring look at pregnancy and birth stories in the US through the past 100 years. These stories are multi-cultural, representing the diverse make up of the US, and a fascinating glimpse into history, as you can hear and then visualise the changes that have occurred in attitudes to birth and women’s decision making power.

The US is well-known as requiring healthcare insurance for the majority of people to access medical support, something that is not available to all its citizens, depending on their own individual circumstances. While there are some government assisted programmes, these are limited. The different stories reflect this, highlighting the inequalities of modern times, as well as those of the past.

These stories have been written to be used not only in theatre but in a wide variety of settings including lectures and in town halls as part of a global project to reflect and debate the variations in healthcare provision around the world. Outwardly, these stories are based around familiar stereotypes, but the cast really brings alive the characters within the writing: there is a strong impression of who these characters are and it is easy to visualise them.

The simplicity of the production allows the power of the writing to shine through, with strong performances from all the actors. The use of accents is effective to reflect the sprawling nation that is the US and while some actors are stronger than others at accents, this simple device adds to the clarity of the different stories, without needing to add even token props. The text weaves back and forth between the years, highlighting the changes that have occurred in what was considered acceptable – and who made those choices.

A fascinating and interesting play which makes you think about the subject matter long after the event.

The Traverse Breakfast Plays: B!rth run @ 09.00 @ the Traverse Theatre until 27/08/17 (not 21); So Far As a Century’s Reach runs on 23/08/17 & 27/08/17. All shows – running time 45 mins.

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