When Clem first dates Luke, she is a 32-year-old ambitious go-getter woman, (eggcount 115), with no interest in motherhood. Four years later, and happily in love, she decides she does want a child after all. Clem and Luke then gradually find themselves in a crisis of infertility, in which Clem becomes increasingly obsessed with time, (insisting it is going too fast), and counting things (like her remaining eggcount)... . To make matters worse, Clem’s older and best friend, Ruth, accidentally conceives a second child, aggravating her despair. By the time Clem is 42 (eggcount 7) she has become mentally and emotionally absent, slipping in and out of her own ‘egg-time’ (which runs faster than everyone else’s). Luke, fearing he has lost her, suggests that it’s time to give up on ‘project baby’.
About 500 combines an unfolding drama between 3 characters with an exploration of the subjective nature of time and a docu-theatre thread suggesting the real women’s voices behind the play. It also uses movement and an ‘installation’ made up of 100s of tiny meringues to convey the spent and squandered ovulations that come to haunt the protagonist. The story’s 10-year passage of time is made explicit to the audience through an ever-present visual display of Clem’s remaining egg count, a forcible reminder of her ever diminishing odds.
The average age of first conception for women in the UK is now 30 and climbing steadily. However, the cliff edge of female fertility remains brutal, dropping dramatically at 35, with the result that more and more women find themselves involuntarily childless in their 40s. This has a huge, and seriously overlooked, impact on women's mental health. The fundamental disparity between a punishingly finite female fertility and a potentially infinite male fertility remains an issue that our society has failed to address, and something of a blind spot for feminism.
About 500 invites audiences to consider this raw deal that contemporary women face.
Writer/Director- Simona Hughes
About 500 was developed in 2018/19 as part of Simona’s final year independent project on her MFA at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (where she has graduated with distinction). In May 2019, a 15-minute excerpt was scratched at the Barbican’s Pit as part of Fertility Fest 2019 to an overwhelmingly positive response ("It will move you and make you think in equal measure.” Jessica Hepburn, founder of Fertility Fest). Simona’s directing credits include Table (Tower Theatre) Remote Goat ★★★★ “Directed with a steady hand and some exquisite theatrical touches”, Spy In Stalls ★★★★ “Simona Hughes achieves a sense of fluidity”, Brontë (Upstairs at the Gatehouse) The Blog of Theatre Things “the production is of the highest quality”, Love, Love, Love (Theatro Technis), “Directed with precision, utterly convincing and compelling to watch” (Tamara Von Werthern, Performing Rights Manager, Nick Hern Books). Short play directing credits include Infomania (Miniaturists @ VAULT), Caveman Principle (Bread and Roses), Found Wanting (Theatre 503).
Dramaturg - Melissa Dunne
Melissa is a writer, director and dramaturg for theatre. Directing credits include Just to Get Married by Cicely Hamilton (Finborough Theatre, 2017) - Susannah Clapps 'Best Theatre of 2017'; 'Staged with wit and efficiency by Melissa Dunne’ Ben Brantley, The New York Times ★★★★; Evening Standard ★★★★; The Times ★★★★ The Observer. Lola (VAULT Festival 2019) The Up Coming ★★★★ ‘An exceptional piece of theatre’. Melissa is Artistic Director of Papercut Theatre and has previously read scripts for the National Theatre, Graeae Theatre Company, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Soho Theatre, Ice & Fire and the Bush Theatre. As a writer her work has been produced at The Miniaturists, Arcola Theatre, Latitude Festival and Assembly Festival, Edinburgh Fringe. Melissa currently lectures on the Writing for Stage and Broadcast Media Masters course at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.
“A bold new play for our times exploring important questions about female fertility, family and friendship - it will move you and make you think in equal measure.”
(Jessica Hepburn, Founder of Fertility Fest, Author of 21 Miles and former Executive Director Lyric Hammersmith).
"Strong and Affecting. A skilfully written and constructed play"
(Nick Wood, Course Director, MFA Advanced Theatre Practice, Royal Central School of Speech & Drama).
Praise for previous work:
Remote Goat ★★★★ “Directed with a steady hand and some exquisite theatrical touches”
Spy In Stalls ★★★★ “Simona Hughes achieves a sense of fluidity”
The Blog of Theatre Things “The production is of the highest quality”
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