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Edinburgh Fringe 2023

Breed or Bust

Human Nature in association with Fringe Management

Genre: Comedy, Feminist Theatre, One Person Show

Venue: Gilded Balloon Patter Hoos


Low Down

The aptly named Joyful Raven’s solo show about pregnancy, abortion, and finding your way is both an autobiographical play about Ravens’s experiences, and a wider reminder of how we continue to limit women. 


Joyful and Naomi have been best friends since childhood. In fact, Joyful was at Naomi’s birth, which Jofyul’s hippie mother midwifed. Growing up, Naomi and Joyful plan to be pregnant at exactly the same time and raise their children together. It is a surprise when, just weeks into a new relationship with dude-bro James, Joyful finds herself pregnant. This is something she wants for herself, but it is not the right time. She asks the spirit of the child growing within her: “Will you come back to me when I’m ready?” The spirit appears to her, and tells her not to worry; the spirit isn’t ready to be born either. She goes to the clinic, and to the mesmerizing slowed down version of ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ slowed down on the radio, she has an abortion. After this, Joyful starts a four year relationship with the deeply unremarkable James, and at the same time, Naomi finds out she is pregnant and decides to keep the baby, presenting Joyful with a unique view down the untraveled path.

I don’t want to spoil any of it, but I will say the previous events were not Joyful’s only pregnancy scare, and not the last time James will be a disappointment to the audience. Joyful goes back to school for drama, and excels as both a teacher and an artist, so when she falls pregnant again, nearly at the same time as Naomi once more, she must call upon the spirit of the child again to try and decide if this actually is the right time, or if there is still more to learn about becoming Joyful. Though masterful comic storytelling, educational forays into the state of women’s health, and even very convince one-woman excerpts of Frank Wedekind’s ‘Spring Awakening’, ‘Breed or Bust’ is a needed addition to theatre about pregnancy and being a woman in this world. 

Joyful Raven is a compelling storyteller with a fantastic grasp of characterization. Her Naomi has a Drew Barrymore-esque quality of gentle whimsy about her, where her James is the worst sort of Andy Sandburg douchebag. Her version of herself is all her own, always inviting, always warm, even when the subject material turns to some of the more vulnerable moments. It is easy to see why Raven is also known as a storyteller midwife. By the end, we had all laughed, cried, and cursed James’ name. ‘Breed or Bust’ is also an introspective look at how we conflate womanhood, feminine purpose, and even motherhood, with producing a child. It confronts how we think about love and nurturing, and what it really means to be a “woman with everything”. I found it very moving, and above all, validating.