Interview: Sarah Bebe Holmes | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Fresh from sell-out runs at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and as part of a UK tour, Egg comes to Newcastle’s Circus Central on Tuesday 15th and Wednesday 16th October. It is an original aerial theatre production from acclaimed circus company Paper Doll Militia and is a powerful visual exploration of female fertility, sexuality and choice. It follows the true story of a woman who gave her eggs to a friend to have a child and highlights themes of choice, chance, science and alternative family structures. We chat to the shows creator, Sarah Bebe Holmes ahead of the Newcastle performance.

How did you get into aerial theatre performance?
I started doing circus in Sante Fe, New Mexico with a company called Wisefool. I love the tricks! I loved being on the trapeze, but I also really wanted to show expression, not just acrobatics. I quickly formed Paper Doll Militia with three other circus performers who shared a similar sentiment.  We created performances with a human vulnerability. And I am doing the same now.

The play is based on a true story. Where did you hear about it and what made you want to turn it into a play?
Well, it’s autobiographical, so the story is mine. Fourteen years ago, I gave my eggs to a dear friend to have a child. I’m a performer and this story was one of the most influential and changing experiences of my life. It felt only natural that it should at some point be staged. I thought about it for about a decade, letting the idea brew. Then it took me 2 years to create it. We have been touring it for two years now and we hope to continue for as long as audiences will come.

What do you want audiences to take from the show?
I hope that the audiences learn something, feel something, are dazzled and troubled and soothed. I hope that coming to the show gives them the feeling of not being alone in their circumstances. 

There are many unique problems around family health, and though this production shares one story it has reverberations and reflections for so many unique situations. I hope that coming allows people the ease to share, and speakeasy about difficult things. I also hope they think the show is pretty punk rock and epic too (which we think it is).

With what’s happening in parts of America and various other countries, where the state is trying to limit a woman’s reproductive rights, do you think now is an important time to show a production like ‘Egg’? 
What is really troubling to me actually is that IVF is 40 years old as a practice, and we still do not have ease in discussing this. There is a lot of privacy, quite naturally, about the choice to make a family.  The choice to privacy is of course fine. However, sometimes this can lead to isolation and even social taboo. Sure there is the unfortunate political and legislative regression concerning women’s choices. But also quite importantly we are faced with another challenge, which is the way we deal with these matters socially, emotionally, and ethically.  Is having a child a right or a choice? Who can decide and if you seek help is it in some way your own fault? Did you just wait too long? 

There are social pressure on women to be in the workplace, but then when our careers are finally solid enough we are teetering on the edge of a fertile window. And of course, this is our fault, we were selfish or silly. This may not be what we hear, but it’s thoughts like this which pass through our minds, making it all the more important for us to keep to ourselves, to not reach out, to not discuss. And the isolation continues. 

These issues are not only real, and present, but what I am finding through touring the production and speaking with audiences is that fertility issues of some kind or another affect a huge portion of the population and no one is talking about it. 

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