Simona Hughes’ new play about eggs, time and the cruel lack of both, About 500, will premiere as part of London’s Vault Festival later this spring. Time to book your tickets!
The drama, which Hughes also directs, runs at The Gift Horse from 18 to 22 March 2020.
“D’you realise that, as a woman, I’ll probably have no more than about 500 ovulations in my entire life? And for most of those, I’ve been either too young or too single or too whatever… And you, with your infinite capacity, tell me to stop overthinking!”
When Clem first dates Luke, she is a 32-year-old, ambitious go-getter woman (eggcount 115) with no interest in motherhood. Four years later, and happily in love, she decides she does want a child after all. Clem and Luke then find themselves in a crisis of infertility, in which Clem becomes increasingly obsessed with time, (insisting it is going too fast) and counting things (like her remaining eggcount). To make matters worse, Clem’s older and best friend, Ruth, accidentally conceives a second child, aggravating her despair.
By the time Clem is 42 (eggcount 7) she has become mentally and emotionally absent, slipping in and out of her own ‘egg-time’ (which runs faster than everyone else’s). Luke, fearing he has lost her, suggests that it’s time to give up on ‘project baby’.
About 500 combines an unfolding drama between three characters with an exploration of the subjective nature of time and a docu-theatre thread suggesting the real women’s voices behind the play. The text was developed through in-depth interviews with over 20 women of all ages and through a series of actor-workshops, with the help of dramaturg, Melissa Dunne.
Responding to About 500, Jessica Hepburn, Founder of Fertility Fest, Author of 21 Miles and former Managing Director Lyric Hammersmith, called it:
“A bold new play for our times exploring important questions about female fertility, family and friendship – it will move you and make you think in equal measure.”
The average age of first conception is now 30 for women in the UK, (and even higher in some other European countries), and yet there remains a cliff-edge drop in their fertility from age 35. As a result, more and more women in their 40s find themselves involuntarily childless which in turn has a significant, and seriously overlooked, impact on their mental health. Recent figures suggested that of this age group only 10% of women are without children by choice. Reproductive rights campaigners are warning of a fertility timebomb.
If men faced the same fertility cliff-edge, the world would look different in a number of ways:
- Fertility clinics would be forced to adjust their fees (currently, egg freezing costs about an average of £7000 in comparison to a mere £400 for sperm freezing).
- The current 10-year legal storage limit on egg/sperm freezing would become overnight a thing of the past.
- Society would display new levels of sensitivity. It would become socially taboo to give unsolicited advice to people in their 30s like, ‘you’d better hurry up and get on with it’ or ‘you don’t want to leave it too late’ etc
- The stereotype of the barren old maid would no longer prevail. In fact, the word “barren” would probably disappear altogether from the dictionary…
- “How to get pregnant” would become one of the most commonly searched keyword string for all adults in their 30s, not just women.
About 500 was developed in 2018/19 as part of Hughes’ final year independent project on her MFA at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. In May 2019, a 15-minute excerpt was shared as a scratch performance at the Barbican’s Pit as part of Fertility Fest 2019 to an overwhelmingly positive response.
Hughes’ previous directing credits include Table (Tower Theatre), of which Remote Goat said it was, “Directed with a steady hand and some exquisite theatrical touches”, Brontë (Upstairs at the Gatehouse), which The Blog of Theatre Things described as a production, “of the highest quality” and Love, Love, Love (Theatro Technis).
About 500 stars Stephanie Fuller as Clem, with Dickon Farmer as Luke and Joanna Nevin as Ruth.
VAULT Festival, which runs from 28 January to 22 March 2020, is “London’s biggest, boldest and wildest arts and entertainment festival”. In 2019, it attracted more than 79,000 audience members to see 428 different shows staged by more than 2,000 artists.
In addition to About 500, the Festival features a range of productions including truthful exploration of adoption reunion Giving Up Marty, dance exploration of living in a foreign country Living Here?, and The Ballerina, described as Heart of Darkness meets Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!
About 500 runs at The Gift Horse @ The Horse and Stables, 122-124 Westminster Bridge Road, London, SE1 7RW from 18-22 March 2020 with performances Wednesday to Sunday 7pm, matinees Saturday and Sunday 3pm. Tickets are priced from £8.50. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!!
About 500 rehearsal gallery