Camden Fringe 2019
Written and directed by Freya Alderson, ‘Baby mine’ tells the story of a woman whose life is driven by her unconditional love for a man she hasn’t seen in nearly twenty years. A play about romantic hunger, sexual denials, repression and coming to terms with our own dark desires.
Born out of a need to tell stories about women who are strong and independent, but also damaged and flawed, ‘Baby mine’ is about a woman who appears to be keeping a dark secret. We meet her alone in a dark room with only two chairs and soon her past self joins her to narrate their story together.
The show could have easily been approached as a one-woman show, but it is an interesting choice by Alderson to have this dynamic of the past and present selves speaking together. The Past (Danielle Winter) seems to remember things differently and be more of a romantic, compared to the Present (Christina Balmer) who is much more pragmatic.
From the very moment the Past walked on stage it was evident that they were the same person; their clothes, looks, mannerisms and even the way they argued. Throughout the play, there is a good exploration of the relationship between the past and present selves.
As they begin to narrate their story we are given the impression that this is a show about a woman who absolutely adored a man, married him and then somehow lost him with no high stakes whatsoever. While I appreciate that this ultimately serves to make the twist more impactful, it does last a little bit too long with the danger of losing some of the audience. This perhaps has to do more with the direction than it does with the writing because although there are hints in the dialogue that something big is about to happen, the atmosphere hasn’t really been building up to it.
But when that first twist comes, it lands and the reenactment of that memory is very well staged and handled with care, which is essential for the delicate subject it deals with. From that moment onwards we are in a spiral of dark themes including sexual repression and desire. As they continue narrating their journey, there are some really strong moments in the performances of both actors.
Perhaps some points could have been bigger and bolder, but they felt held back or brushed through quickly without being given enough weight. For example the reenactment of a memory that involved the woman masturbating to something extremely taboo. With female masturbation being taboo in itself, this is a double taboo. It is unusual and uncomfortable for the audience, who is feeling a hundred different things at once. So it is worth giving it more weight. It adds a different level to the storytelling and it serves as an insight into that woman’s thoughts and twisted desires. And it’s not necessarily about giving it more stage time as it is about engaging the audience. Either by letting the memory really take over the women or potentially by having them intensely eyeball the audience as they speak. It only takes eyeballing one member of the audience for every single one to feel the actor’s look piercing them and it is a great feeling. You feel part of the world of the play.
This brings me to another merit of the production, which was breaking the fourth wall and acknowledging the audience. Something that certainly fitted the theme. It can definitely go further, but the foundation of this production, the concept, is extremely strong and has a lot of potential.
The second biggest twist comes near the end of the play and it has definitely been built up more. So by the time the play ends you feel more engaged and more involved with that woman and her story. Her final decision right before the blackout, hit the audience like a powerful wave and I even shed a tear. The staging and use of voiceovers in those final moments was very well done.
Overall ‘Baby mine’ was a good show, but what’s more important is that it truly has the potential to be outstanding. Well done to Freya Alderson and everyone involved in this ‘XV Theatre Company’ production.