DramaReviewSouth West

The Love I Feel is Red: Zion Community Space, Bristol

Writer: Sabrina Mahfouz
Director: Nel Crouch
Reviewer: Joan Phillips

Two women, two generations, two very different situations, each connected through love and tragedy, yet each divided by circumstances and times.

This thought-provoking short play by Sabrina Mahfouz illustrates the emotions and mindsets around the very difficult subjects of abortion and miscarriage. Without judgement or rancour, Mahfouz intelligently circles the lives of two women, Susan and Mona, who have to face and come to terms with decisions and situations none of us ever want to encounter, but many tragically do.

Susan (Heather Williams) is the mother of Mona’s (Janet Etuk) boyfriend, Tai. Mona’s unplanned pregnancy forces her to make have difficult conversations with Tai and take some hard decisions. Mona decides she can not risk the possibility of the relationship ending and then having sole care for a dependent child. She decides a termination is the best outcome. Tai is less ready to come to terms with the decisions that Mona feels they need to make.

Susan was a national swimming coach when she was young and first married. When she became a mother Susan willingly subordinated her career to motherhood. There were regrets at the missed opportunities but for Susan the decision was straightforward. A second pregnancy ended in an agonising public miscarriage. Susan could not bear the thought of more children and Tai remained her only child. Both women were devastated by their decisions but both had to find a way to move on despite them. The magnitude and intensity of their situation made all the more extreme by a shared tragedy involving Tai.

Sympathetically played by both Williams and Etuk. With a bare stage and simply a kettle for a prop the two are mesmerising as they share their private thoughts and pain of the impossible situations in which they find themselves. For Susan, a very public miscarriage brought both support and judgement. For Mona, the impossibility of being a single mother weighed up against the prospect of an abortion. One from an era where personal aspirations would be set aside to family, the other where women are expected to be more self-supporting.

At only 50 minutes it packs a lot of punches but not a line is wasted in this tightly directed short play directed by Tobacco Factory Director in Residence, Nel Crouch. This very concise and tender piece of writing by Mahfouz intelligently avoids judgement but shows how close we can all fall into being so. By avoiding judgement Mahfouz and Crouch masterfully use theatre to create a neutral space to play out these very difficult and loaded issues in public. Approached differently, or in different media, such subjects can polarise opinions and cause division. In this case, the subjects are so human we can only feel their appeals for understanding and support.

The Love I Feel is Red is the latest in the successful series of ‘A Play, A Pie and A Pint’ productions. Originating in Glasgow, A Play, A Pie and A Pint was an idea developed as an affordable and fun way to enjoy theatre and new writing in different formats. The pie is served at 6.15pm so you can stop off on the way home from work, enjoy some food, company and a short piece of theatre and still have an evening at home ahead of you. Let’s hope it catches on.

Runs until 7 May 2016 | Image: Contributed

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