Tuesday, July 23

Borrowed – Unity Theatre

New writing offers a fresh perspective in exploring one’s own bodily autonomy within a world prejudiced by societal expectations and imposed limitations.

Back in 2022, in line with its historical patterns of oppression and exploitation, the US revoked Roe v Wade, a piece of legislation which guaranteed the right to access safe abortion care. This reversal saw an assault on reproductive rights, resulting in a worrying reduction in healthcare choices, including those accessing IVF and surrogates, (as well as the people they’re carrying babies for, such as infertile couples, and members of the LGBTQ+ community).

Borrowed deals with pregnancy from the perspective of the surrogate, and the choices available pre and post 2022, with our central protagonist Bella, at aged 17 (Sasha Georgette) and 27 (Emmy Stonelake). We weave in and out the two versions of Bella and her feelings towards the growing life inside of her, referred to as ‘Pineapple’.  Exploring the psychological wellbeing of a surrogate, as well as the physical acceptance of becoming host to another, balancing their gestational rights, thoughts, and opinions. These contemplations are laced with Bella’s feelings as a fat woman, and the attitudes imposed onto her by society, including healthcare professionals, where presumptions are made because of her size in regard to her health, and physical ability.   

The non-linear and repetitive narrative flitters between the two timeframes of Bella, giving the sense of 10 years’ worth of self-reflection and over thinking. Central to the action is the free-standing bath, the birthing pool, which Georgette and Stonelake, both clad in red swimsuits, fluidly move in and around as they recount episodes and experiences jumping in and out of various characters who pop up within their recollections.

Directed by Lauren Tranter, the flitting between time zones and locations is supported by the brilliant use of lighting and sound, designed by Isobel Odelola.  Both combined to create some very effective portrayals of mood, enriched by Elissa Cooper’s movement support, creating beautiful tableaus. Both Georgette and Stonelake give strong, watchable performances as the likeable Bella in a visually appealing piece of theatre. However, there are soundscapes within the piece which appear to be significant but seem to be unexplained making some parts of the production confusing.

Written by Georgette, the piece is self-described as a ‘radical story’ and does indeed tackle some refreshing perspectives with some amusing and interesting observations. However, it’s a struggle to understand what the lasting take home is, in terms of its radical approach and this needs further clarification. The debate around what is deemed a healthy size is touched upon with the character of Daisy, who whilst slim and healthy, has experienced multiple miscarriages, argues the point that despite being fat, Bella has had healthy pregnancies. Bella feels strong and beautiful, yet perplexed by the suggestion she gets checked for diabetes, but as to why this has to be a negative thing isn’t explored.   

Bella states that she isn’t a fan of the body positive movement but doesn’t delve deeper into the reasons why. It briefly touches upon the differences between fat and mid-sized people but doesn’t really dissect the differences of our own perceived fatness, and that it’s not as binary as being either fat or thin.  The body positive movement, an advocacy for diverse body shapes is often dominated by abled, voluptuous, hour glassed bodies, with just the right distribution of fat. The lack of visual representation of big bellied apples and for small boobed, big bottomed pear shapes, the forms of many mid-sized bodies, begs the question of what is considered as the right type of fat to be beautiful, and healthy.

Overall, an interesting concept with room for various perspectives providing plenty of scope for development.   

Despite consisting of mostly Manchester based creatives, Borrowed was shown as part of the Unity’s Up Next Festival 2024, a two-week festival celebrating Merseyside artists and companies. 

The festival runs until Saturday 4th May 2024, for a full programme and tickets please visit https://www.unitytheatreliverpool.co.uk/whats-on/up-next-festival-2024/

Reviewer: Gill Lewis

Reviewed: 27th April 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.