Theatre review: ‘Eggsistentialism’

Another evening, another play. This time the tickets were booked in advance. A few weeks ago I purchased a pair, to see the one woman show ‘Eggsistentialism’ – written by and starring Limerick woman Joanne Ryan.

The fact that this was a production which originated in Limerick is entirely coincidental.

That’s a lie of course.

I do like to support the Limerick folk in our theatrical endeavours. Limerick has always been, of course, Ireland’s capital of culture. Richard Harris, the Cranberries, Terry Wogan, the Rubberbandits all hail from the River City. As so I always like to lend my support in the only way I can – buying a ticket.

On paper this is not a play that I should have much connection with. It’s the autobiographical tale of a thirty six year old woman who is facing some difficult questions – about whether or not she should reproduce. For reasons of biology, this is a decision that women need to make. Staring down the barrel of the fertility gun is not something men have traditionally had to do. Sure can’t men become fathers at any age? Or so the narrative goes.

Women on the other hand are faced with this time dependent choice and it can cause an existential crisis.

Being a gay male makes this scenario even more far removed from my own experience. Heterosexual men, while not faced with time limiting fertility choices that women are, nonetheless are expected to reproduce. Gay men are spared that societal expectation.  Never had any desires to be a parent, this has always been a relief to me. I have never had any wish to spawn. While I love the children of my friends, the actual day to day reality of being responsible for another human life has never appealed to me.

So while I was expecting to enjoy the play, I was not expecting it to be so incredible. It is side-splittingly funny.

Our Joanne is in the throes of a hangover from Buttevant (also known as hell) on her thirty fifth birthday, when she receives a call from her mother, ringing to inquire after her – in that uniquely Irish Mammy way. The mother interrupts Joanne’s train of thought, throughout the play via voice-over. And her interruptions are usually hysterical.

‘Would you ever cop on to yourself?’ seems to be the message.

The story becomes an exploration of where her life is going. Should she have a child? What are the consequence of deciding not to? How will she deal with the judgement of the world on the decision she makes? Is she ready? Does she actually want a child?

Via a trip to to a fortune teller, and a weekend break in Lisbon, and a trip to a fertility clinic, no answers seem apparent.

The set is simple – a sofa and table. The screen at the back of he stage projects all the dilemmas she is pondering in a hilarious manner.

The weakest element for me is the brief segment which recounts the appalling conditions that Irish women have had to face when it comes to parenthood since the foundation of the state. In chronological order. Certainly it is fascinating and harrowing, but seemed a little bit out of place, slightly resembling a powerpoint presentation. A worthy presentation for sure, but if there’s one thing I cannot abide it is worthiness.

The strongest part was the central performance by Joanne Ryan.

It’s a truly remarkable performance – hilarious, tough, sad, though-provoking. She is a wonderful actress, and she plays the part brilliantly. A kind of Limerick every-woman who captures the ‘eggsistential’ crisis (see what I did there?) of woman of that certain age.

Highly recommended.

It’s on in the Smock Alley Theatre in Temple Bar at 6.45pm for the rest of the week.

Go see it.

1 thought on “Theatre review: ‘Eggsistentialism’

  1. Excellent review! I loved the play and it made me laugh throughout while also prodding me to think on what it means to have children, or not, in modern Ireland.


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