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19 Weeks - Melbourne Fringe Review

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by Aridhi Anderson (subscribe)
Aridhi Anderson is a theatremaker, performer and reviewer based in Melbourne. Check out her work at aridhianderson.com.
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A compelling true story and a theatrical masterpiece
How do you deal with complicated news? How do you process big questions when you don't know who to talk to? How do you make peace with the decisions you've made, especially when it's time to move on? Emily Steel explores these questions and more in 19 Weeks, a compelling autobiographical account of termination after her baby was diagnosed with Down Syndrome.

Tiffany Lyndall Knight in 19 Weeks. Photo credit: Sia Duff.
Tiffany Lyndall Knight in 19 Weeks. Photo credit: Sia Duff.


19 Weeks takes place at an unusual venue for a theatre show - a hotel swimming pool. There's something strangely calming about the venue as you enter - perhaps it is the soft lighting, perhaps it is the sight of shimmering water, perhaps it is the soothing music, or perhaps it is the invitation to sit by the pool and dip your feet in the water, where Tiffany Lyndall Knight (the performer) welcomes you to share in her space as she tells you this story.

Tiffany Lyndall Knight in 19 Weeks. Photo credit: Marshall Arts.
Tiffany Lyndall Knight in 19 Weeks. Photo credit: Marshall Arts.


The performance is in the style of a long narration, an almost entirely uninterrupted series of monologues performed by one woman. Lights and curtains never go down. Every time the performer disappears into the water, it is symbolic and meaningful, an important part of the story. Indeed, the symbolism of the person in the pool is profound and expressed powerfully throughout the story.

Tiffany Lyndall Knight in 19 Weeks. Photo credit: Marshall Arts.
Tiffany Lyndall Knight in 19 Weeks. Photo credit: Marshall Arts.


The story is of the 19 weeks in 2016 when Steel was pregnant - it is the story of her family (her partner and her young son, her parents, and also her extended family), of her pregnancy sickness, of her hospital and clinic visits, of her innermost thoughts and anguish, of her honesty with herself and with the world. It is a story with some moments that are light, others that are heavy. Some that are sweet, others that are heartbreaking. It is a continuous story, told mostly in chronological order, told to anyone who would like to listen. And yet, it feels less like a story and more like a conversation, an intimate conversation between strangers who honour each other's vulnerability.

Tiffany Lyndall Knight in 19 Weeks. Photo credit: Marshall Arts.
Tiffany Lyndall Knight in 19 Weeks. Photo credit: Marshall Arts.


19 Weeks is a poignant, deeply cathartic story, and a theatrical masterpiece. Emily Steel's disarming honesty about her most intimate feelings and experiences, combined with Tiffany Lyndall Knight's exquisitely sensitive, flawless performance, results in 70 minutes of absolute awe at the complexity of the human experience. This work speaks right to the heart and leaves no room for judgment or apathy. All defences melt away as the audience find themselves in tears. And when that happens, you realise that Knight isn't just telling a story, she's also listening to yours, reading your face even though you're not speaking. She responds with a compassionate gaze or a compassionate touch and continues to share the empowering truth of Steel's story.

Tiffany Lyndall Knight in 19 Weeks. Photo credit: Marshall Arts.
Tiffany Lyndall Knight in 19 Weeks. Photo credit: Marshall Arts.


The stigma around pregnancy, abortion, infertility, miscarriage, motherhood, and a host of other experiences is real and can cause women to feel isolated. 19 Weeks is a work that seeks to open up the conversation, to remind people that it's okay to feel how you feel, and it's okay to talk about it. Emily Steel leads by example by sharing her story, and invites other people to share theirs, too. This work will make you feel many things. But above all, it will make you feel like every story matters, and you matter.
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Why? A compelling story, and a theatrical masterpiece.
When: 13-22 September 2018
Phone: 61 (03) 9660 9666
Where: Swimming pool, Adina Apartment Hotel Melbourne, 189 Queen Street, Melbourne
Cost: $30
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