Fertile imagination breeds hit play

Going Out

EGG TIMING The ticking of the biological clock prompts some big decisions. Pic: Eoghan Lyons

Eoin Togher

Limerick-born writer and performer Joanne Ryan is bringing her multi-award-winning play, ‘Eggsistentialism’, to the Linnenhall in Castlebar this Thursday, November 21, at 8pm, as part of a ten-venue national tour. The play is an autobiographical journey charting the journey Joanne embarked upon whilst trying to decide whether or not to have a child in her final fertile years.
Joanne thought of the theme while she was doing a theatre incubation scheme in Belhaven in Limerick in 2015.
“On the first day, as an icebreaker, the people who we were working with asked us to rant for about a minute about something we were angry about or scared of,” she tells The Mayo News, “so I did my rant and then at the end, as a joke, I said I don’t know whether or not I want a child. As soon as I said it everyone started laughing, but I knew it was true and the joke was on me.”
Joanne said that she realised then that she was fascinated by the whole subject of how women are meant to have a child by a certain time, ultimately prompting her to write a play about herself and her own personal journey towards making a decision about becoming a parent. “It wasn’t this big make or break life decision which I thought it was,” she reveals.
When the show became an international hit (it’s been staged as far away as Australia and Malaysia), its popularity made the decision for her, as she was too busy to be thinking about having a baby.
However, life changes, and Joanne is now mum to an eight-month-old baby boy. His birth inspired her to reassemble her creative team and update the show – so that it could reflect not only her own personal life, but also political shifts, such as the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.
Joanne was originally shocked that her show was so well received internationally, “This show is so rooted in the Irish experience, and in me being a part of my generation in Ireland, [I was amazed to see it] could have so much resonance internationally.”
She described the show as ‘Reeling in the Years’, as it explores the sexual-health history of Ireland from 1916 to the present day, a perspective that is enriched by Joanne’s experience as being one of the ‘first generation of humans in Ireland to have a choice’.
These are important issues, and issues that had a huge impact on Ireland and all who have lived there over the past century. While the subject is tackled with wit, Joanne’s play does not shy away from deeper, existential themes. “Behind the comedy and humor there are a lot of serious questions about what it is to make a successful life.”

Tickets (€16/€14) to ‘Eggsistentialism’ in this Linenhall Arts Centre this Thursday, November 21, are available online at www.thelinenhall.com, or call the threatre box office on 094 9023733.