Play marks fine treatment of difficult issue
Baby Baby by Stellar Quines Theatre Company and Perissology Theatre Productions. Premiere at Garrison Theatre, 31st January.
This deftly performed two hander is much more than a cautionary tale about teenage pregnancy. It is also a story of self-discovery and friendship, showing how fundamentals can bind in spite of superficial differences.
The short but intense drama charts a year in the lives of two 15 year old girls from opposite ends of the social spectrum. Although they apparently have nothing in common and do not even get on, the play ends on an optimistic note when, as very young mothers both committed to their new roles, they walk to hospital (and into the future) together.
The experiences of April and Pinkie parallel each other but in a diametrically opposed way. Their lives are the same yet totally different, the symmetry of their stories played out in monologues addressed as direct challenges to the audience.
April, with neat hair and carefully dressed with immaculate white trainers, admires the pierced, grunged-out Pinkie (of the pink hair) who sits on the pavement with her friends, smoking and looking so sure of herself, so “real”.
Pinkie, for her part, resents the “perfect” April, who always seems to turn up wherever she, Pinkie, is.
But April’s posh look belies a troubled home life and the fact that she is an insecure child who admits she doesn’t know who she is – and behind Pinkie’s aggressive exterior is a rebel desperate for affection from uncaring parents.
Both get pregnant at the same time and for dubious reasons. April hardly knows what is happening and does not know how to say no – the more experienced Pinkie has unprotected sex in an act of bravado.
April reacts to the reality of pregnancy with fear, Pinkie with defiance when, as young mothers-to-be under the school leaving age, they are thrown together in the Tinley Road School.
Their angst is palpable as they pour out their thoughts, with only a chair, mirror and blackboard as props. Clever use of lighting in the central part of the scenery enhances mood – the hospital in a blue-white light, for example. Things begin to change when Pinkie collapses, has an emergency caesarean and gives birth to a “plucked chicken”, an “alien” pierced with tubes. By contrast, April’s delivery is problem-free and she bonds immediately with her “treasure”.
And when both girls are asked to give a school talk about the dangers of underage pregnancy, their honesty shines through and the timid April becomes passionate. No-one deserves a sick baby, she tells the audience, referring to Pinkie, who she believes is the “bravest person I know”. We made a mistake, she says, and almost shouting at the listeners: “put up your hand if you’ve never made a mistake”. So riveting is the acting of April (Hannah Donaldson) and Pinkie (Ashley Smith) that it is entirely likely that someone would have stuck their hand up.
From the first moment when the girls appeared on stage together in white bathrobes as mirror images of each other to the accompaniment of discordant music, it was clear the drama would be compelling. Their performances were energy-packed and completely convincing.
The scant conversation between them and the brief appearances of other characters – mother, teacher, nurse, played as flashbacks by the two with subtle changes of dress and speech – was effective in giving insight into their lives.
The diction was clear and the audience, sadly only half-filling the Garrison, was gripped from beginning to end. You could have heard a pin drop.
The message from Vivian French’s book, from which the play was adapted, is that there are innumerable reasons why girls get into this situation and that they should not be judged (maybe their mothers should be).
Either way, the young people in the drama develop and mature during the story leaving the audience hopeful for their future.
The subject matter is perhaps particularly relevant to young audiences and the production had help from young Shetlanders in directing, set and costume design, movement and stage management.