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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Friday, February 20, 2009

Baby Baby

Published in Northings © Mark Fisher

Baby Baby

BABY BABY (North Edinburgh Arts Centre, 19 February 2009, and touring)

WELCOME TO the post-Juno era. Gone are the days when we had to treat teenage pregnancy as a sign of society's moral decay. Now we can admit that, yes, it’s unfortunate but, hey, these things happen. Especially to teenagers.

That's the underlying principle of Vivian French's teen-friendly play, produced in a three-way deal between the young Perissology theatre company, Shetland Arts and Stellar Quines.

My own 15-year-old daughter picked up immediately on the refusal of Baby Baby to play the sanctimonious card. A teenage audience is perfectly able to see that pregnancy at such a young age is ill advised without having some grown-up spell it out for them.

For that reason, they're likely to appreciate the honesty of French's vision of two girls drawn together in spite of their differences through their early experience of motherhood. This honesty, informed by the playwright's experience running a workshop for teenage mums, extends in all directions.

Just as she presents the two pregnancies as foolish but understandable mistakes, so she is up front about the excitement of independence and the joy of motherhood, and clear about the hardships, stresses and emotional weight that the experience entails.

In fact, the reason Baby Baby works as well as it does is that, rather than making an issue of the pregnancy, it makes its focus the fraught relationship of the two girls. Hannah Donaldson plays April, a well-behaved frequenter of coffee shops who is in awe of Ashley Smith's rebellious goth Pinkie. In turn, Pinkie is convinced April, like the rest of the world, is sneering at her.

Leaving aside my daughter's observation that April talks and dresses too much like a chav to be part of the middle-class coffee-shop set, the scene is set for a coming-of-age drama in which only the shock of childbirth can make the girls realise how much they have in common.

Under Jemima Levick's lively direction on an almost bare stage, it makes for a piece of deft storytelling theatre with a quiet emotional punch. Where a more moralistic playwright would have hammered home a lesson about learning to be yourself before you give birth to others, French hooks us with a sympathetic tale of teenage vulnerability, brazenness and the need to be loved.

Deep down, Baby Baby has a moral of its own about judging people for who they are not what they appear to be. Such a view might not help at the family planning clinic, but it could make for a better adjusted society and it certainly makes for an engaging 90 minutes in the theatre.

Baby Baby is at the OneTouch Theatre, Eden Court, Inverness, 23-24 February 2009; Plockton High School, 25 February 2009; Red Shoes Theatre, Elgin, 27 February 2009; Lyth Arts Centre, Wick, 28 February 2009.

© Mark Fisher, 2009

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