MISSION ABORT

Wed 2nd – Mon 28th August 2017

reviews

Charlie Stone

at 10:06 on 10th Aug 2017

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Vocal and physical combine in a strongly emotive performance by the classy Therese Ramstedt. 'Mission Abort', a one-woman show which explores the devastating effects of abortion on identity and relationships in an all-too indifferent society, is a deeply subversive, and deeply important piece of theatre.

Ramstedt proves her versatility as an actress with a superb show of physical acting, as well as varying uses of her voice – singing, humming and shouting all provided valuable means of expression. The play opens with the actress on her back on a hospital bed, legs in the air, explaining upside-down to her audience that she is being examined in preparation for an abortion. Uncomfortable positions such as these are interspersed with enactments of sex and sarcastically cheerful dancing, made all the more impressive by Ramstedt’s choice to perform on her own. Rarely has there been a more disturbing scene than when she lies on her back in sexual throes, the figure of a lover ominously absent.

The absent lover, though, is given a role on the recorded messages played out on the speaker. In fact, this one-woman show is adept at introducing a range of characters to its audience. Even the songs that are played out on the speaker gain a new meaning alongside Ramstedt’s script: ‘Girls just wanna have fun’ takes on sarcastic implications which maintain an irony throughout. This forces the audience to rethink their conceptions of what would seem mainstream and conventional. Donald Trump makes an appearance on the speaker, unsurprisingly, yet pertinent to the issue at hand. Audience participation is also key to the atmosphere of 'Mission Abort.' Ramstedt’s request for a spectator to act as part of the boyfriend/girlfriend dynamic is an intelligent tactic for ensuring the play explores more than just itself. The ‘thank you’ that this participator is told to repeat becomes increasingly perverse, an example of the script’s ability to undermine everyday expressions.

Throughout, the incorporation of speakers and audience to add characters and information - such as when adverts and medical guidance are related - plays a key role in this deconstruction of clichés and official advice that lies at the centre of this play. Explicit scripting, sounds and physical acting are perfectly designed to unsettle the audience, and even the very silences remain full of latent meaning. This is a skillful production that successfully imparts to its spectators the importance of discussing abortion, and argues that it is still an act not fully understood in today’s society. It is not a play for the faint-hearted, but nor should it be. Brave yet accomplished, personal yet universally affecting, theatrical yet an unavoidable reality, 'Mission Abort' is a well-crafted, powerful play.

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Eleanor Lawson

at 13:00 on 10th Aug 2017

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Overcome by the need to communicate, Therese Ramstedt’s character realises that there is no one she can comfortably talk to about her abortion. No one has ever told her that they have done it despite the fact that one third of people with a uterus have.

This is the gut-wrenching stigma that Ramstedt’s one-woman performance tries to shatter, bringing the audience with her through her character’s choice to terminate her pregnancy, and the repercussions it brings. Written and performed by Ramstedt and directed by Claire Stone, ‘Mission Abort’ sets the tone quickly with Ramstedt tossing a pregnancy test to a member of the audience, demanding “don’t tell me anything” and gleefully commenting “I peed on that”, before a shrill school bell heralds the results. As she demands you clap to celebrate her news, she falls into a stony-faced silence. With this show, you never feel certain with your footing, and that is one of its key successes.

Its brilliance derives from both Ramstedt’s audacity as a writer and a performer, as she uncovers the physical and mental aftershocks of an abortion. At its most harrowing, she adeptly weaves the line between tragedy and comedy, with physical comedy morphing clinical spasms into high kicks performed to Kate Bush, as she forms coping mechanisms for herself as well as the audience. Potentially terrifying experiences become some of the shows funniest moments such as her need to discover new poses in her life modeling class to hide the sight of blood, and a couple’s despair at her body changing, thus throwing their drawings into jeopardy. Yet, at no point does humour feel inappropriate. In a particularly emotive motif, Ramstedt tries to find catharsis through singing, but is almost rendered mute. This stunning rediscovery of her voice evolves from stuttering over her staccato hums forced out of a pained face to an eventual crescendo of music, body arching forwards in an outpour of pure emotion.

Impressively, ‘Mission Abort’ navigates the important divide between the personal and the political with relative ease. From recordings of Trump and pro-lifers, to the plight of Irish women trying to terminate their pregnancies, ‘Mission Abort’ refuses to hide the forces that generate hatred surrounding reproductive decisions. The production shines a light on the roles that individual men play in the emotional neglect of their partners. The monotonous drone of her boyfriend addressing her trauma through a voice recording (played by Jeremy Franklin) is followed by the unsurprising choice of abandoning his girlfriend for a Lad’s Holiday, reinforced through a disturbing piece of audience participation which ephemerally places the burden of such a neglect on a man. The audience is fully complicit through such participation, but also demonstrates the regenerative forces of solidarity, when the opportunity is given to audience members to provide support for the distressed character. How humans communicate and provide support for each other is a prominent and important theme, presented in an especially optimistic light in relation to female solidarity.

Even more important than the inventive nature of the show and its accomplished actress is its ability to encourage communication and give a voice to people shamed into silence. Seeing the emotional response from the audience demonstrates the potent importance of this production, and the desperate need for it, when there is still a pressure to silence such voices.

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