Following it’s warm reception at the Edinburgh Fringe, I was intrigued to see ‘Baby, What Blessings’ at Theatre 503 last night. Running until Saturday 28th September, it played to a full house last night, and I believe is sold out again tonight, so if you do fancy catching it, I’d book in quickly for one of the final shows.
Written by Siofra Dromgoole, ‘Baby, What Blessings’ is a monologue performed by the playwright’s sister Grainne Dromgoole. In fact Three Sisters Productions, the company behind ‘Baby, What Blessings’ is very much a family affair, with Cara Dromgoole listed as the Assistant Director on the show.
So what is the play about? There are some very clear interlinking themes: young love, sex, guilt, mental health, identity, belonging, suicide and racism are all explored.
The story is shared from the perspective of Billie, and perspective is everything in this play as it leans into the tendency people have to project their own interpretation of reality onto the people and world around them. Grainne Dromgoole’s Billie is clumsy and confused in her hunt for the right words to explain herself, convincingly balancing naivety with self-awareness. You believe she is trying to be as truthful as possible, but she can only frame the story through the prism of her own perceptions. As we learn through the course of the play, she isn’t the most reliable of witnesses. She pushes people to tell her things, she wants to understand, but she lacks the ability to listen.
This is a fascinating dynamic, because while I engage with Billie’s story about her relationship with Amal, I’m also left dissatisfied by the fact that Amal’s voice is absent. You feel the void where his experience should be, which is frustrating but also powerful in its own way. Ultimately you only have Billie’s story, and you are left as lost as she is when it comes to understanding Amal.
There is something very relatable about Billie. We were all young and stupid once (I wouldn’t trust anyone who denies that!). That age where you feel everything intensely. Life is so much more dramatic and cataclysmic. You’re still working out who you are, and let’s face, you might be a bit worried that you’re not a great person. We could all do better. We could all be better.
With ‘Baby, What Blessings’ Siofra Dromgoole creates an uncomfortably familiar character piece about a white, young, liberal, British, privileged, highly educated, creative woman who, through her relationship with Amal, has to confront systemic and culturally embedded racism. This is her story. Imy Wyatt Corner’s direction is subtle and downplays the dramatics, the emotional sparsity providing a counterpoint to the heightened youthful passion at the heart of Billie’s story. Grainne Dromgoole’s Billie is often muted and strained, as she shares a self-deprecating interpretation of what happened. The burning passion is in the past, remembered but diminished and tainted by the accompanying guilt and self-doubt.
As you can probably tell, I’m still digesting this play, and I do enjoy it when a production keeps my brain occupied long after the curtain call. I’ll be very interested to see what Three Sisters Productions do next.