Be Longing – VAULT Festival, London

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

 Writer: Lauren Gibson

Director: Lizzie Fitzpatrick

There’s huge potential in Be Longing, a queer love story set in a not too distant dystopia. Scientists have discovered a new way to reproduce that doesn’t need sperm to fertilise the egg. This sounds like great news for female couples wanting to start their own families, which are based upon their genetic makeup only. However, playing God comes with problems.

And yet, Lauren Gibson’s play isn’t really about science at all. As the play continues, the moral dilemmas on what colour eyes the two women should choose, and, more intriguingly, what skin pigmentation they should select, increasingly fade into the background, and instead we get a fairly conventional love story, albeit about two women.

Sigrid and Jim have their first date in a Greek restaurant at the tail end of the 2020s. They are both excited, hopeful for possible futures. Sigrid works in digital media, a job that Jim later disparages: ‘pushing pixels around a screen’ is not journalism, she says. She is a scientist, working in genetic engineering, and leading an experiment where the genetic information from two eggs can be spliced together. ‘Combining genes is an act of love’ she tells Sigrid.

Keagan Carr Fransch inhabits the role of Jim well, serious and yet idealistic at the same time, trusting that she remembers the exact moment that Sigrid fell in love with her. Sigrid is played by Gibson, and although she may seem more relaxed and whimsical, she is the more grounded of the pair. Their onstage relationship is believable, but the story drags as the short rapid scenes – spliced out of order – become more insular.

For a show about life, Be Longing lacks some energy. Even when protestors gather outside Jim’s work, or follow Sigrid home on the tube there is no urgency here, with little variation in tone. The moral questions about designer babies should take centre stage here, as that future is already upon us, but instead the focus is on how two women fall out of love.

With some other kind of engineering, where the ethics are foregrounded, this play definitely does have a future. But at the moment perhaps it just needs a longer gestation period.

Runs until 8 February 2020

The Reviews Hub Score

Genetically queer

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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