Journeys of Self-Discovery

AJ Clay reviews Birthday Girl & Blue and Pip

Birthday Girl [theSpace on the Mile] (@bdaygirlshow)

In this intense one-woman monologue by Rosa Gatley, a 20th birthday is dreaded, mourned and celebrated.

From the moment Ruby Woods bursts onto the stage she’s full of energy, whether handing out feather boas and novelty glasses to the audience or belting out Dancing Queen at a drunken karaoke party. The mixed feelings of turning older are expertly explored, and audiences of any age will relate to the draughty school halls, Colin the Caterpillar cakes and teenage house parties with illicit booze.

Ruby feels cursed, being born on the same day as 9/11. She has a morbid fascination with the event, watching YouTube footage on a loop and enduring playground jibes about somehow causing so many deaths. At the same time, a chance discovery of the Kepler Orrery prompts feelings of being small and insignificant in a solar system of hundreds of planets. Finding out she would only be two years old on Jupiter was a revelation that somewhat eases the angst of growing old.

Self-discovery is a recurring theme, especially on exploring love and sexuality; the portrayal of her teenage kiss is beautifully described as ‘floating on the ocean with your head turned towards the sun’. There’s references for 90s children and millennials alike – the idea of the galaxy laid out as a Nokia Snake game was a nice touch.

Ultimately, Rosa and Ruby have created a show that will resonate with all ages, and reassure you that birthdays aren’t so bad after all.

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Blue and Pip [theSpace on North Bridge] (@bluepipfringe)

Blue and Pip love the sea, but when Blue becomes too ill to visit the beach a long struggle for a diagnosis begins. This disabled-led exploration of endometriosis and how it affects a queer couple hoping for a baby is a powerful and at times disturbing watch.

The ignorance and patronising attitude of the doctors treating Blue will be all-too familiar to anyone who has sought help for hormonal issues, and as Blue becomes more sick and the waiting lists for treatment lengthen, the hopes of using the ‘kiddy kitty’ funds begin to dwindle. Hearing the usual suggestions of exercise, dieting and the Pill is frustrating, especially as Blue and Pip must effectively choose between a pain-free life and a life with children.

One thing that struck me was the ongoing need for endo sufferers to rely on friends and family for financial support and essentials such as accommodation and post-surgery recovery. There’s often a great deal of self-research needed too, especially for non-binary people like Blue whose well-meaning mother could never adequately explain the ‘time of the month’ when it mattered. Throughout the process, Blue is quietly furious at the medics treating them, while Pip attempts to clown her way through the struggle. The acting is top-notch, laced with moving moments that often stopped the audience in their tracks.

Blue and Pip is a vital addition to the ongoing dialogue around reproductive healthcare and the male-dominated influence within it.

****

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