Review: BIRTH @ Circomedia


By Sophie Sherman, Arts Sub-Editor

You get the feeling that these actors have reached into our pasts and personified a hundred forgotten memories, and with such clarity, remind us of the preciousness of early years with our parents.

Staged by Theatre RE, the internationally acclaimed ensemble put on a thought-provoking and powerful performance at Circomedia Bristol.

BIRTH is both about the heart-wrenching and heart-warming moments of three women’s lives - grandmother, mother, and daughter. We discover gradually that all three women share experiences, whether it be the birth of a child, navigating the hidden struggles of motherhood and marriage, or the agony of a miscarriage.

The cast gave a powerful performance on stage | Image courtesy of Pamela Wraith Photography

The actors slip back and forth into the past and present, revealing the various obstacles they each faced when building their relationship with their child/mother.

I resonated with nearly everything I saw during the years of adolescence portrayed. I was uncontrollably smiling at the sight of seeing the mother beam watching her daughter take her first steps. I also felt a pang of guilt watching them fight and yell over schoolwork – something I admittedly remember doing with my own mother at times.

BIRTH sheds light onto an overlooked, yet nevertheless important, perspective. Within the cast of five, two were men, who play the roles of the mother and daughter’s husbands. Audiences could have gained a more nuanced understanding of loss, if the emotional impact on the two men after their wives’ miscarriages was explored. Undoubtedly, the story is rightly defined by its exploration of motherhood, but the paternal influences unto each characters’ lives are still undeniably worthy of attention.

A white sheet was used throughout as an effective transitional tool | Image courtesy of Pamela Wraith Photography

This performance confirmed why Theatre RE is esteemed one of the UK’s leading visual theatre groups. From the offset I was on the edge of my seat unknowingly gravitating towards the endearing physicality of the performers. Looking back, it feels as if each breath and movement led onto the next, as if the performance were (and may have been intended to be) one long sequential dance.

A white sheet was masterfully employed as a transitional tool, seamlessly carrying time over the characters. Throughout the entire show there was beautiful, nostalgic music playing, serving as a melodic narration of the three women’s lives unfolding. There was clever use of musical motif that reoccurred during moments of maternal unity, and towards the end all three generations of women embraced and childishly danced, almost as a sign of defiance in the face of their agonising losses.

Students should run, not walk, to grab tickets whilst Theatre RE are touring this show. Even better, get your parents to come along with you, as if there was one thing this show reminded me, it is of the fragility and unpredictability of life.

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Featured Image: Pamela Wraith Photography

Will you be getting tickets to the BIRTH tour?