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Be My Baby
Published on Thursday, 09 August 2012
2

2 stars

Paradise in The Vault (venue website)
Theatre
5 Aug, 5:15pm-6:15pm; 6-12 Aug, 2:55pm-3:55pm
Reviewed by Lynsey Martenstyn

 Parents or guardians should consider the content of this show if children are attending.

Single pregnant teenagers have always been held with contempt in British society. Nowadays, the news of young girls falling pregnant is met with raised eyebrows; fifty years ago, it was commonplace to eradicate their shame through far more drastic means. Be My Baby offers an insight to one of these shocking methods.

Though written in 1997, the play is set in a ‘home’ for unmarried expectant mothers back in 1964. Before the sexual revolution it was commonplace for young women to be placed into such homes, to give birth and hand the newborns over to the state – which then sent them to married couples throughout the country. Of course, it was all conducted away from the prying eyes of society.

The young cast perform a gently touching rendition of the play, but were not always able to do the script justice. Being called on to make audiences weep and laugh within a single hour-long production is definitely a challenge, and one that may have been a little too much for a cast so young. Nevertheless, some of the actors are highly promising; a notable performance came from Rebecca Glendenning-Laycock, who portrayed central character Mary’s feisty, street-wise roommate Queenie with depth and feeling.

The storyline focuses around the middle-class, 19-year-old Mary, who is seven months pregnant and is submitted to a home by her disappointed mother. She befriends three other girls in the home: Queenie, Norma and Dolores, who are all vastly different but share the same secret from their loved ones. Scenes are performed enthusiastically, but were often over-acted, rendering them one-dimensional.

Music forms a focal part of the play, offering the girls with solace whilst reminding the audience of just how young they are. Songs include The Dixie Cups’ Chapel of Love, The Shangri-Las’ Past, Present and Future and, of course, The Ronettes’ Be My Baby. The soundtrack sculpts the era of the play’s setting and aids fluidity of scenes. A great deal of effort has also gone into the authentic props, though the staging and lighting were somewhat unimaginative – for all they did fulfil the needs of the play.

The production stuck loyally to the script, yet I was troubled by the unexplained absence of religion. The homes were based around the Christian concept that having children out of wedlock is considered a sin; but except for a dismissive mention of Mary’s faith at the beginning of the play, the religious foundation of the home was noticeably and inexplicably unexplored.

All in all, if you’re an existing fan of the play or interested in the issue it discusses, this production undoubtedly offers an enthusiastic performance from a young cast. Regrettably though, it isn’t the most polished or thought-out piece you’re likely to see this Fringe.

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