If men were the people expected to plan their lives around having children with any expediency, there would be no gender wage gap. Women, and the industries they are most prominent in, exist under the constant yoke of a presumption that they will, and must, eventually have children, which invariably sees their wages and promotional opportunities docked by the overwhelmingly male bosses who subject women to this quite extraordinary display of rank passive-aggression as they edge closer to the age of 40, so as to demand that they go home and bring up babies whether they want to or not.
Meanwhile, men, and men’s workplaces, comparatively seem to be liberally lavished with raises, promotions, and overtime regardless of older age, as an incentive to help bring home the bacon for the baby, whether he has one or not. After all, a man has his entire life to get around to starting a family eventually.
Many such painful, infuriating thoughts of this ingrained injustice are provoked from the audience by the genuine recordings from women in director Simona Hughes’ latest drama; one of which in particular asks how society as we know it might broadly change in a world in which men, like all women, had a concrete biological need to perhaps too hastily grow up and get on with the job before there was no time left.
About 500, so named for the rough estimate of viable ovum allocated across a woman’s young life from menarche to menopause, tracks the trials and tribulations of couple Clem (Stephanie Fuller) and Luke (Dickon Farmer) as they try and try again for a much-wanted baby, seemingly to no avail, as the desperate Clem’s so-called biological clock ticks further and further down to nothing.
Originally meant to premiere at the VAULTS Festival in March, this rather different breed of ticking-clock thriller has retreated to ZOOM, in the form of a sort of audio play, a rehearsed reading twinned with some ingenious video editing and narration which manages salvage much of the effect of a proper staged viewing. Director Hughes narrates the would-be stage action well from a polished, dynamic script full of authenticity and strong characterisation, ably assisted in no small part by her principle players. Both Fuller and Farmer are excellent as the couple, managing an impressive emotional range full of expression, and carrying off plenty of genuinely moving dramatic moments. Joanna Nevin is also superb in her double act as the couple’s close friends Ruth and Emily, with fine chemistry on display between all three actors.