The big questions should never be answered on a horrendous hangover, but Joanne Ryan muses over them anyway. She has a wry wit, an ambivalent personality combining anger, apathy and the exhaustion that stems from caring about perception for too long. Eggsistentialism perfectly sums up her train of thought – a show about the biological clock that seems to be running faster and faster with each passing year. Ryan faces the big question head on, telling it to fuck off for a bit longer.
“When your head is in the sand, the whole world’s your hat”. A perfect summary of Ryan’s retort to those that tell her to contemplate children, her legacy and the motivational menstrual cycle that eggs the rest of the world onwards. Ryan is annoyed that kids are the assumed given for any woman – house, marriage and a bunch of sprogs that run you ragged and drain your bank account. But then she is simultaneously concerned that she may not be the maternal type – it’s a well-written and clearly conceived dichotomy that rings true across the audience. Ryan’s mother is particularly candid about the whole thing, her passing commentary chiming in at inopportune moments for comic effect. It works – the passive aggressive dialogue and battle of wits accents the overall message inherent within the production.
Ryan draws observant parodies within the social circles of the single thirty-something that resonate in truth across the age and relationship spectrum. Her keen eye for detail gives Eggsistentialism its much-needed colour and friendly atmosphere – this topic is not a rant or a lecture, simply acute observational comedy. More than that, the situations are real – drunken slurs to men you’ve only just been dating about getting your eggs counted come across as simultaneously insane and sensible. It’s the reassurance Ryan needs that children are not entirely off the menu.
The decision is much easier for men and yet we are reticent about admitting our impotence. Ryan drops in some startling satire to help inform the conversation from her perspective – it was 1981 in Ireland before rape was announced to be a legal offence. The light-hearted touch here masks the all too real predicament that Ireland is still considered one of the least progressive countries for women in all of Europe. Particularly growing up the 80s and 90s – the lack of readily availabile of contraception or the morning after pill meant that Ryan was brought up thinking she didn’t have a choice in her future. Can she be to blame if she grabs the newly presented opportunity with both hands?
Eggsistentialism throws up an interesting dichotomy that Ryan aptly explains near the end – does the luxury of choice magnify the subsequent decision? She spouts regrets and resentments with startling ease – you are pitied if you are without child yet scorned with one. But the concluding observation is whether any decision can truly be wrong. Ryan all too often skirts over important questions that surround this state of affairs, but ends up painting a picture of reality that she doesn’t know how to answer. She can have kids still, thankfully, but the agonising choice is now hers to make.
Eggsistentialism plays Summerhall as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017 until 27 August 2017. For more information or to book tickets, please visit the website.