HALF OF ME – Lyric Hammersmith, London.
Fuelled by purpose and feeling, Half of Me tackles an issue that is often not considered, let alone addressed, in wider society in the modern age: that of children born as a result of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART). This is in spite of its increased application in coming to the aid of desperate couples seeking to bear offspring.
Written by Satinder Chohan, this work is the culmination of a collaboration between Generation Arts (a project which gives pre-drama school acting training for disadvantaged young people), Tamasha Theatre Company and the Centre For Family Research at Cambridge University. In this instance, our protagonist, the 17 year old Areia, asks, ‘Where did I get my eyes? My wavy hair?’ etc.
Whilst these questions are specific, the road to sating their curious posing is littered with obstacles. This is down to the strict anonymity provided to donors. It is a solid brick wall to uncovering the truth. Areia’s search, however, is one intensified after doctors frightfully discover that she has a hole in her heart. Now, it is imperative that she makes contact with her mysterious paternal parent. After all, her condition is congenital and it does not stem from her mother’s side.
While her realisation of her conception dawns on her, the narrative considers how this affects the parent who has needed the assistance of the fertility treatment. Are they crushed by the harsh accusatory finger pointed by the horrified child who has learned the reality? This play steers its attention to this additional angle and more. It includes Areia’s contact and connection with her half-brothers and sisters: those who also share genes from the same donor.
This is an occasionally chaotic and excessively busy ensemble piece. It is understandable that space should be provided for each constituent member of the group to shine, but the Greek chorus is sometimes a betrayal of a welcome ‘less is more’ ethos and thereby detracts from the narrative thrust on such a delicate topic.
So too the performances are off-kilter. Some actors fare better than others. But the ramshackle feel is not without its own special charm. There is gusto where naturalism is lacking. There is commitment where the edges are rough. There is the ember of potential in the unsteady wobble of some of the regale. This is a valuable exercise for this group of actors and they will only grow from this enterprise.
Amongst the quibbles there is also a lot to enjoy. Plentiful delights reside in and amongst the twists and turns of the story. Whilst Chohan’s material might feel a little ‘route one’ in terms of evading subtleties, it is also engaging and enticing. Audiences will no doubt emerge pondering the topic on a far deeper level than they had an hour prior. Surely that is the measure of success for this production? Discussion, debate and consideration is the order of the day here, and in that, this is an unequivocal triumph.
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By Greg Wetherall
29th – 30th July 2016
Lyric Hammersmith, London, W6 0QL.