It is difficult to believe that this production – a very mature, honest, human take on the still largely taboo topic of abortion – is Therese Ramstedt’s debut. In equal measure tragic and humorous, Ramstedt lands a beautiful, powerful performance.
There are many strong, loud opinions on what women should and shouldn’t do with their bodies, with most of the media discourse both judgemental and ignorant about the actual experience. Very rarely do we hear the stories and experiences of women who have had the procedure. And even if we do, there is a barrage of larger political opinions shaming and protesting and eventually, drowning out those voices.
Mission Abort is about a 26-year-old Londoner working ‘in the arts’ who falls pregnant by accident, and – sharing the decision with her boyfriend – decides to have an abortion. Using humour and some dance too, the script deftly tackles the question of contraception being a woman’s responsibility, the issues with free counselling, and the wider lack of discussion on the topic.
I have never before encountered an actor who holds as much direct eye contact with the members of the audience. The one-woman story works well, especially in the aftermath of the procedure, where the emotional and social fallout is covered. In particular, there is a scene in the gynaecologist’s office featuring a lengthy silence, followed by a song performed unaccompanied by Ramstedt – and she has a beautiful voice. It's a tender moment.
The only real weakness, for me, was the audience participation; it felt slightly forced and definitely awkward, and did not add anything to the storyline. Leaving it out would take nothing away from the show. It's also true that, while the plot deals with an important and controversial topic, it poses and answers predictable questions – there isn't any viewpoint here that I haven't heard both sides of before.
However, those are minor concerns. This play remains a courageous production, about a topic that 1 in 3 women in the UK will have experienced first-hand. More men, I felt, should be seeing this – as it takes two make a baby and, a lot of the time, two to decide what to do afterwards. And with this year marking the 50th anniversary of legalised abortion in the UK, it's a particularly opportune moment to increase that dialogue.