This is the first full production for Illumine Theatre which has been set up by playwright Lisa Parry and Director Zoe Waterman to “reveal stories in plain sight”.
The play is set in Cardiff slightly in the future where we have been through Brexit and laws surrounding sperm donation have changed. Anyone who is born from sperm or egg donation can seek out their real parents when they hit 18. At its heart is tackling identity in an ever-changing world and the issues raised by advances in technology and genetics, fertility and also D/deafness.
Chris and John are a gay couple at the centre of this story and are hoping to have a family of their own. Mary comes looking for Chris who donated his sperm when he was 18. She is 18 herself and seeks him out in order to find out where she came from. Her appearance in their lives threatens to tear them apart. Chris feels like he needs to help her understand who she is and he begins to neglect John. Mary has a much bigger agenda for finding Chris. She is deaf. She knows that she has lots of siblings who might also be deaf and she longs to be with them to offer and receive understanding and support. This is her quest as the story develops.
Richard Elis and Stephanie Black
Tom Blumberg and Richard Elis
Stephanie Back gives a heartfelt performance as Mary. She is lost in a hearing world and needs to understand herself in the deaf world. Richard Elis as Chris is geeky about sci-fi and moving in his indecision when he can’t Choose between his two families. Tom Blumberg portrays John as a quietly strong husband fighting for his family. Zoe Waterman directs with a light touch.
The whole show is captioned throughout and it would be great if the company managed to generate a deaf audience. However, the play does seem to be trying to tackle too many issues. It only touches on certain issues such as post-Brexit Britain being filled with hate for anyone that wasn’t born here. Mary has a Polish name and her mother has to go back to Poland because of something that happened to her father.
Overall, this is a fine play dealing with some important issues. Sometimes the writing seemed forced, bringing in too many issues.
Keeping the captioning on the set, makes it easily accessible, although I found that I would watch the words rather than the actors.
A credit to a company trying to mount shows with meaning and accessibility.
Main image: Stephanie Black and Richard Elis
Images: Rachel McTernan
Chapter until October 13
Lisa Parry talks about 2023: Lisa Parry, Playwright: 2023, Illumine Theatre