Mission Abort, VAULT Festival

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by guest critic Serena Ramsey

One in three women will have an abortion at some point in their life. The chances are excellent that you know someone who has had one, but being such a taboo subject, we are conditioned to not discuss it.

Therese Ramstedt’s Mission Abort shares this personal experience, which she clearly holds very close to her heart. She sheds a punchy and humorous take on something that needs to be spoken about. She offers a hand to women who can relate through their own experiences and opens the eyes of others so they can begin to understand the reality of this subject.

The play begins with Ramstedt’s legs in stirrups on a bed whilst being examined by a doctor. The set, costume and props are minimalist and simple. As we follow her on the journey of a young woman struggling through the aftermath of a termination, there is something wonderfully human about her performance. She offers a voice to women who cannot, or feel ashamed to, speak up. The writing itself is witty and clever, although occasionally the jokes do not hit home.

Claire Stone’s direction is delicate and poignant, capturing every nuance. The best part of the production is the audience participation in which Ramstedt asks two members of the audience to hold her hand while she undergoes the procedure. It’s extremely graphic and uncomfortable, but the boundaries being pushed are ones that need to come down. Abortion is uncomfortable, it is gut wrenching, and she is portraying her truth.

Ramstedt’s singing is beautiful and almost haunting; this communicates her internal struggle which she is less likely to convey to the outside world –  but it does show her multi-disciplinary talent.

As a woman who has had an abortion, I can say this play tastefully and lightly deals with the serious issues surrounding this subject. After I left, I found a young woman crying in the toilets. As I offered her a hug, she replied “I just feel so much less alone”. That’s how I would sum up Mission Abort – we stand together especially in a time of Trumps and Weinsteins. Ramstedt offers a frank look at something harrowing, but she embodies every part of resilience women have inside of them.

Mission Abort runs through 11 February.

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