Review: Be Longing, Forge (Vault Festival 2020)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

Bolstering an affecting and meaningful queer narrative, Be Longing is a stunning, vividly-written, dystopian paragon. Expertly navigating the morality of genetic engineering, whilst beautifully capturing the slow and painful fizzle of losing love. To put it plainly, it’s a must see!

Set in the not-too-distant present, the piece follows Sigrid and Jim, a relatively normal couple. Episodically, we experience their highs and lows, they laugh, they fight, they make up. These fast-paced snapshots engendering a charming fondness between the two of them, as well as a genuine sense of pain that they seem to cause each-other. The fluctuation of their relationship is palpable, ensuring characters remain tangible and universally relatable. Things start to turn sour when the possibility enters their relationship, of using gene splicing to create a baby from both of their eggs, (a process devoid of any sperm). Their different opinions cleverly becoming the grounds for an enamouring discourse on the morals of medalling with nature and natural selection. Jim is therefore, the clinical, matter-of-fact geneticist who cannot ignore her maternal instincts. Craving to carry a biological child, she sees nothing wrong with the anti-natural selection of the future family model, allowing not only for queer couples to conceive, but for them to box-check the features they would like, i.e skin pigmentation, eye colour and more, theoretically erasing genetic diseases and building their perfect child. This sentiment and style reminding us much of Ella Road’s award-winning play The Phlebotomist. Be Longing thus, fantastically plays on the idea of selection, pitting natural selection, the process through which heritable traits are changed and passed down, against the dystopian idea of manually selecting genes through ticking boxes and signing forms, ready for a lab to engineer it so. Sigrid, comparatively, doesn’t have a maternal bone in her body and has no desire to carry or birth a baby. It doesn’t sit so easy with her to manufacture offspring. She is unsure if she even wants to procreate at first and when it comes down to it, wishes she could leave things to chance. Counter-balancing the argument, she wonders if protesters to the lab’s experimentation are right and questions the ethics, such as what happens to the ‘half-cooked’ embryos. Lauren Gibson’s writing, is therefore a wonderfully balanced and didactic exegesis, she delivers something unimaginably complex and proficient, truthfully navigating the primal urge to want to reproduce. Writing for-the-now, her work is politically and socially aware, for example imagining the probable Tory opinion on lab’s pro LGBTQ+ work and creating a realistic idea of what the media circus around it would be like. Not only does Gibson pose these irreproachable questions and champion everyone’s right to a family, she also demonstrates her wit, leaving plenty of room for comedic relief, i.e Sigrid comparing the process to buying their baby from Argos on Click and Collect.

Lizzie Fitzpatrick’s direction is scintillating, subtle yet strong it combines intimate moments love or emotive impassioned arguments with swift changes in lighting and empowered musical underscoring to maintain a snappy pace, whilst not undermining the overall intent. The scenes in which they each take it in turns to address some thoughts to their embryo(s), documenting their journey for the baby’s future, do much to convey a realistic sense of maternal anticipation, from the nerves, to the excitement, fears and more. This is were the beauty in the design comes in.   White orbs of light, representative of the potential child surround the edges of the playing space, one sitting centre on the couple’s coffee table, these are picked up and addressed directly in these moments. Enacting as endearing, humanising letters. The suggestion of the domestic setting of their home, (i.e with the coffee table, chairs and rug), doing much to contain them as a family unit, grounding and personalising the narrative. Whilst the inclusion of the idea of infertility, through a fault in the body not the eggs, despite all of the science, brings the dystopian fantasy brutally back to earth. 

Performance-wise, Lauren Gibson’s Sigrid is a breath of fresh air, her clarity and nuanced performance phenomenally conveying the unease Sigrid has over the idea of co-parenting, as well as the unfaltering adoration she holds for Jim, Sigrid would do anything for her. Whilst Keagan Carr Fransch’s Jim is passionate and strong, Fransch providing a fantastically visceral portrayal of Jim’s inward frustrations and sharply-practical nature. Both are hugely emotive and dextrously actors.

Do not miss Be Longing on until 8th February, (with a relaxed performance at 3pm on the 8th). Click here.

 

Jim: Keagan Carr Fransch

Sigrid: Lauren Gibson

Director: Lizzie Fitzpatrick

Dramaturg: Molly O’Shea

Producer: Caroline Tyka

Writer: Lauren Gibson

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