Eggsistentialism: A well-conceived meditation on the fertility struggle

Theatre highlight: Joanne Ryan’s comic solo show looks at a universal dilemma

Solstice Theatre, Meath. Nov 1 12pm & 8pm; Draíocht, Blanchardstown Nov 2 8pm; touring until Nov 31

On her 35th birthday, after a night of heavy celebration, the actor and comedian Joanne Ryan woke up nursing a heavy concern: was it time to have a baby? Or, a more sobering thought, had she already left it too late? The fertility anxiety of Ryan's solo show, Eggsistentialism, which began at the Dublin Fringe Festival in 2016 and has since travelled to Edinburgh and Australia, isn't confined to one person. Birth rates are falling globally, while people start families in later life and fertility issues become wider spread. One oft-quoted statistic about ageing populations and falling replenishment is that more nappies are now sold in Japan for adults than babies. Last year Ireland saw the lowest number of births on record.

Ryan’s show puts things in engagingly personal terms. Reading that 10,000 of a woman’s eggs die every month, she reflects, “I’ll be lucky if I’ve enough to make an omelette,” while the voice of her own mother interjects wry commentary at intervals. But she also places it within a political context, where the nation’s dismal history on reproductive rights is recapitulated in video projections. The journey comes with comic delivery, while a national tour that includes parent-and-child friendly performances is undertaken with sympathy too. Otherwise an entertainment about fertility struggle might be harder to conceive.