An intimate, visceral spectacle, Egg combines aerial artistry with powerful imagery to tell a courageous true story about the lengths some people are forced to go to when they want a baby.
Egg is about the star and creator of the show, Sarah Bebe Holmes, who ten years ago gave her eggs to her friend Carol, so she could have a child. Holmes puts herself through the ringer for this production. As the audience enter the dingy, haunting Demonstration Hall, they are forced to pass by Holmes, suspended from the ceiling, naked, in what appears to be an amniotic sac, her body contorted into the foetal position. She stirs, as if disturbed by the presence of the audience. Her fingers scratch at the sac, almost as if she were a baby. Already, the audience is in awe of the lengths Holmes will go to as an artist.
Holmes’ aerial skills are tremendous; she manages to act and perform dialogue while sliding, flipping and contorting in the air, supported only by plastic tubes. Her initial sparky, confident attitude when in the air, is later heavily subverted in one particular sobering scene showing a twitching Holmes, on the ground, writhing around in a plastic sheet, letting it wrap around her body. She then climbs into the air once more, the plastic sheeting still covering her, all to emphasise the effect hormone treatments are having on her body. The change in personality is very emotional and this contrast contributed greatly to the audience reaction at the end of the play where half of the Demonstration Room stood up to applaud.
The composer of the piece’s soundtrack, Balázs Hermann, also has a small part in Holmes’s production. While his acting may not be the best – a lot of mumbling with not enough projection in his voice – his live performances on the double bass and electric guitar are eerie and hypnotic, especially the sound of a heartbeat that he manages to create with the double bass, mirroring the heartbeat of the not-yet-born baby at the start of the show.
Holmes is not content with merely highlighting the emotional effect the treatment has on her; unexpected and complex visuals appear out of thin air, with detailed graphics showing the science behind egg donation and IVF treatment. One particular visual projected onto the back of Hermann’s violin is captivating. The film projections of Fallopian tubes, with close-ups on captions such as ‘harvesting eggs,’ all highlight for the audience the emotional and physical drain that the IVF treatment had on Holmes’s past self.
There are aspects of the production that puzzle me somewhat, such as the time taken to change costume during each scene. There is great exaggeration when changing between three different pairs of shoes which leads to a profound image at the end, but during the narrative, the time it takes to change between each pair is inordinately long, and interrupts the flow of the story.
Also, the accent Holmes uses to portray the monotonous, uncaring IVF doctor feels too silly, and clashes with the tone of the play. There are meant to be three characters that Holmes portrays, but the transition from one character to another is sometimes too quick and too subtle meaning that, initially, I couldn’t tell at what points Carol’s character was being presented. The script could be tightened here to make clearer these transitions.
Overall, though, Egg is an ambitious and engrossing piece of circus theatre, with a fierce central performance that echoes long after the lights go up.
Venue 26 – Summerhall – Demonstration Room
Aug 8-12, 14-19, 21-26 6:15pm
Photo Credit – Richard Dyson and Kate George