Hailing from Ireland, Edinburgh Fringe Festival award winner Joanne Ryan presents a frank and fearless performance in her show Eggsistentialism about feeling the call to reproduce, but with no clear plan or partner in sight.
Joanne has a hangover on her 35th birthday and is avoiding calls from her Irish mother. She contemplates her life and the number of eggs potentially left in her ovaries and worries if she will ever have a child. With no partner in sight, Joanne examines the history of Ireland's antiquated laws favouring Catholic procreation, to the detriment of women, and roadmaps her next steps to find out if she is still fertile.
Coming from a single parent family herself, with an absent alcoholic father, Joanne knows the inherent dangers of 'not finding the right guy' to father her children. There is also the question of surrendering independence and freedom for parenthood. However, hearing other girlfriends with children making statements like 'it just was meant to be' and 'it will just happen' is unhelpful to Joanne's plight and downright depressing. She seeks out her own research of historical facts about fertility rights in Ireland to find some certainty in her decision to want children.
From the ban on importing condoms to anti-abortion and contraception laws, Ireland has a sordid history of denying the rights of women and children, outside of 'holy marriage'. Even within marriage, rape by a husband was only made illegal in Ireland in 1993. Before then, it was a man's conjugal right to have relations with his wife, at will, and without her consent. Domestic violence and alcoholism led to homelessness, unwanted pregnancies and 'institutional care' where a woman could have their child, in secrecy, only to have the baby taken away from them through 'forced' adoption.
Joanne eventually finds a guy she does like and pumps up the courage to have a conversation with him about her interest in perhaps having a child. To her disbelief, he encourages her exploration and even accompanies her to the fertility clinic, where they have an egg and sperm count. On receiving positive results, Joanne becomes hopeful that a child may be in her future – and if not, she resolves herself to continue the relationship with her lovely man, and the fact they explored a child together, is meaningful enough, even if the reality is they are unable to conceive.
This is a highly relevant story for contemporary Australia, where there will be whole generations of women who will never have children – whether due to infertility, or to 'never finding the right guy', or from buying into false myths about the 'right age' to conceive. Importantly, this show is not restricted to women, so please, bring along your sons, boyfriends, brothers and fathers and start an important conversation about fertility and parenthood.
Joanne's storytelling is both comic and heartfelt as she explores the many facets of fertility with her warm and engaging stage presence.