These are layered, highly believable characters. Longhurst and Robertson are supplied with a generous collection of brilliant lines that sees the audience laughing till they snort.
– Kath Melbourne, Arts Hub.
Tasmanian Theatre Company delivered a bundle of joy with the Tasmanian premiere of e-baby as its contribution to the 2017 Ten Days on the Island international arts festival.
Directed by Anne Cordiner and Julie Waddington, and starring Tasmania’s award-winning actors Jane Longhurst as Catherine and Katie Robertson as Nellie, e-baby’s first appearance in Hobart was greeted with delight by audiences and critics.
e-baby follows the journey of Catherine, an Australian expat lawyer living in London with her husband Harry, and who has everything except a child. In a last desperate bid to fulfil her dream, she hires Nellie, a first-time surrogate and mother of two living in Boston, Massachusetts. e-baby is a funny, poignant and powerful story of our times.
You can see Kath Robertson’s full review here:
And here’s some great feedback from Hobart audiences:
Loved it. Exceeded my high expectations.”
“I was absolutely blown away by this production, needless to say very well acted, but the star of the show for me really was the script itself, so cleverly written and finely balanced between the two vastly different perspectives. Just remember to take your tissues.”
“I found it by turns heartfelt and harrowing and funny, and sometimes all three at once.”
“e-baby did an excellent job of delving deep into the emotional pitfalls of surrogacy. If you have no experience with people who want children but cannot conceive, this play beautifully explores this issue and so much of its complexity.”
“The themes in e-baby were very personal ones for me and I was worried that I would find the piece too emotional, too close to home. I knew the play would be in safe hands with Jane and Katie at the helm and I really appreciated how the subject matter was handled with much care and sensitivity. e-baby was emotional and thought-provoking, Jane Cafarella has created a wonderfully topical piece of theatre but what was most wonderful about this production was the way it used the light and the humour in the piece to accurately reflect the highs and balance the lows (and they are big highs and lows) of infertility and lengths someone will go to in order to have a child.”
“Fabulous acting, and direction from Anne Cordiner, loved the way each character complemented the other. Great writing, addressed the issues without being biased or tendentious, deceptively simple and clear.”
The Hobart team
Anne Cordiner, producer and co-director for the Hobart production is a veteran Australian actor who trained at Flinders Uni and NIDA and has worked with SATC, MTC, Circle, Southbank and Pomegranate Theatre Companies.
e-baby marked Anne’s directorial debut, co-directing with Julie Waddington, who has 20 years experience with PloT, Old Nick and her own company Organised Chaos – and who delivered her own real life baby – Isabella Rose – during this production.
Tasmanian Theatre Company Artistic Director Charles Parkinson said that including e-baby in the company’s 2017 was a “no brainer”.
“When I heard Jane Cafarella’s beautifully written play e-baby read by two of Tasmania’s finest actors, I knew immediately I wanted it in our 2017 season,” Parkinson said.
“e-baby is a finely crafted piece of writing: the kind of writing that gives directors great pleasure – tight, economical, funny, engaging and moving. Add two actors of the calibre of Jane Longhurst and Katie Robertson and you have a winning mix.”
With set design by young designer Matilda Woodroofe (who also did the Melbourne set), and who worked with Melbourne Theatre Company, Sydney Theatre Company, the Malthouse, Vic Opera and Bangarra Dance Theatre, and lighting design by Max Ford, who worked on almost every TTC production for the past seven years, e-baby Hobart was an intimate and engrossing production.
e-baby was performed at the Patrick St Theatre in West Hobart, (a pop-up theatre created for the season), from 28 March to 1 April 2017.
Since then, it has been produced in Ohio and London, and post-Covid productions are planned in Columbia, Missouri, and Barcelona, Spain.
Listen to the playwright and director
Thanks to Melanie Tait, host of ABC Evenings, for featuring Jane and Anne on her program on March 16.
You can listen in here:
Read what the critics have said about previous productions of e-baby…
Award-winning film director Nadia Tass has done a masterful job bringing a big human drama to a tiny stage – Juanita Phillips, Stage Whispers
In October 2016, Sydney embraced the Ensemble Theatre’s production of e-baby, which brings one of the hottest issues of our times – surrogacy – to the stage.
Previews began on October 13, with opening night on October 19, with audience members and reviewers laughing, crying and raving.
Gretel Killeen tweeted on October 20: “Big bravi to all involved with e-baby @ensemblesydney. Fab writing by @jane_cafarella & wonderful acting and directing. Definitely a must see.”
Juanita Phillips, reviewing for Stage Whispers, said: “At times, e-baby is raw and harrowing, and the emotional highs and lows continue right to the end. The final scene is like being slapped in the face, then hugged. I left with tears in my eyes.”
Read the full review here:
Upstaged reviews wrote: “e-baby is an utterly beautiful play with all the right ingredients to get your teeth into something both delicious and satisfying. Cafarella’s script hits all the right notes, Tass’ direction is flexible in navigating the emotional crevasse of this story and performances by Carter and Scawthorn are divine.
“When an audience is effortlessly made to think, laugh and cry, a slice of the human experience is shared – what more could you ask for.”
John Rozentals, reviewing for Oz baby boomers, wrote: “Director Nadia Tass’s choice of Danielle Carter and Gabrielle Scawthorn to play out this contemporary and poignant two-hander was inspired.
“Carter is spot-on as Catherine, the successful, humourless, formality-driven London-based Australian lawyer who desperately wants the child she can’t carry herself.
“Scawthorn plays perfectly the role of Nellie, the young Massachusetts woman who accepts cash payment to carry Catherine’s child…”
Fiona Cameron in The Music, wrote:
“E-Baby is a very rare theatrical beast: a two-handed play by women, starring women and about issues that affect women viscerally. Indeed, another such production doesn’t readily spring to mind.
“This play offers great writing by Jane Cafarella, brought to life by two powerhouse actresses, Danielle Carter and Gabrielle Scawthorn, led by another outstanding woman, director Nadia Tass.”
Susanne Gervay, reviewing for the Society of Women Writers NSW Inc, wrote: “Nellie (Gabrielle Scawthorn), with emotions swirling is wonderful as the surrogate for Catherine (Danielle Carter) the fraught, corporate woman crushed by her inability to have a child. It is a bitter-sweet, funny, sad, real play of women.”
Full review: https://www.facebook.com/The-Society-of-Women-Writers-NSW-Inc-1491708781046746/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE
Kevin Jackson, in Kevin Jackson’s Theatre Diary, wrote: “It is the performances by Ms Carter and Ms Scawthorn that are so personably secure, so empathetically contrasted, drawn with humour as well as head-butting ideological battlements that, essentially, keeps at bay too much carping about the relative suspense-comedy that we are given.
“The actors are a disarming and charming coupling. They draw us irresistibly into the situation that the Playwright and Director offers and, cumulatively, one is well satisfied with an entertainment that is cathartic as well as, lightly, educational….I had a very satisfying experience. I recommend the journey.”
Jason Blake, reviewing in the Sydney Morning Herald, wrote: “… interest is sustained by two solidly written characters, the inbuilt tension provided by a ticking gestational clock, and by Nellie’s streak of wry humour.”
Audience members have also been posting on the Ensemble Theatre Facebook page.
Here’s a selection:
I laughed and cried a lot. It was totally amazing! Thank you. – Tom Browell
Brilliant acting, funny and fraught. Thoroughly enjoyed e-baby. – Libby Doolan
I saw this yesterday. It is one of the best dramatic plays I’ve seen for sometime. Great writing on a very topical subject touching on all aspects that challenge us. Fabulous casting and acting. I hope more people get inspired to see it. – Maria Anning
It’s a beautifully nuanced play – compelling and real. – Sue Murray
Saw it. Loved it. Go see it. – Tessa Olive
My grateful thanks to Mark Kilmurry, Artistic Director at The Ensemble Theatre, for his support and faith in my play, to the wonderful Nadia Tass for her direction and dramaturgy, support and passion, to the amazing cast Danielle Carter and Gabrielle Scawthorn for bringing Catherine and Nellie to life so beautifully, and to the talented and dedicated team at the Ensemble who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to create such a wonderful production, and finally to the audience members who took the trouble to give feedback and spread the word. – Jane Cafarella
e-baby premiered in Melbourne at Chapel Off Chapel in March 2015 with direction and dramaturgy by Anna McCrossin-Owen.
More about our fabulous Sydney cast:
Danielle Carter, a NIDA graduate, has appeared in many plays for The Ensemble, most recently My Zinc Bed, by David Hare. She has also appeared in plays at The Sydney Theatre Company, and her many TV credits include All Saints, Neighbours, Blue Heelers, and Under Belly.
Gabrielle Scawthorn is also a NIDA graduate and appeared at The Ensemble earlier this year in Blood Bank, by Christopher Harley. Her TV credits include Dr Blake Mysteries (ABC) and Fresh Blood (ABC).
Nadia Tass is one of Australia’s most acclaimed and awarded theatre and film directors. In 2014, she was awarded the Screen Leader Award for Outstanding Leadership, Achievement and Service to the Screen Industry.
Tass made her directorial name with the hit film Malcolm, starring a young Colin Friels, and these days combines both film and theatre directing in Australia and overseas.
She has directed numerous plays, including The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, in 2001/2, for which she was nominated for Best Direction for a Musical in the 2003 Helpmann awards.
In 2015, she directed Annie Baker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, The Flick, for a return season for Red Stitch Theatre, to critical acclaim, and most recently she directed another Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Disgraced, by Ayad Akhtar, for Melbourne Theatre Company, receiving five-star reviews.
e-baby is the first play that Tass has directed for The Ensemble.
Production design for Sydney premiere by Tobiyah Stone Feller with lighting design by Nicholas Higgins and AV design by Christopher Page.
e-baby in London!
Rave reviews for London rehearsed reading of e-baby on 14 July 2015
We laughed and cried and I would like to see it have a future life here…
– Sarah Berger, Artistic Director and Founder, The So and So Arts Club
From left: Kat Rogers, Pamela Shermann and Becky Hands-Wicks
A rehearsed reading of e-baby at the So and So Arts Club at 6 Fredericks Place, London on Tuesday July 14 received a fantastic response.
The reading was directed by Pamela Shermann and starred Kat Rogers as Catherine and Becky Hands-Wicks as Nellie.
Here’s what some of the audience members had to say:
… intriguing, informative, emotional, and kept us guessing right to the end as to the outcome. – David Waters
…a wonderful piece, congratulations to you and the fabulous actors and director.– Rachel Creeger
Congratulations Kat, Becky and Pamela. And thank you Sarah for finding yet another playwright who writes great parts for women. Wonderful play, wonderful performance. – Grace Cookey-Gam
…a great night, great script, great acting great directing! – Gillian Steventon
Well acted and an emotionally gripping story. – Carol Allen
The So and So Arts Club is London-based global arts club that aims to put emerging artists in touch with established artists to share knowledge and resources.
Thanks so much to Sarah, Pamela, Kat and Becky and everyone who came along to support the reading.
See below for information and reviews for the recent Melbourne premiere of e-baby at Chapel Off Chapel from 4-15 March 2015.
“e-baby, a new play by Australian journalist and cartoonist Jane Cafarella, does a brilliant job of laying bare the complex issues involved in commercial surrogacy arrangements…”
– Angela Savage, critic and author
“Director Anna McCrossin-Owen has magically created a world for each woman that we can understand. Their long-distance and face-to-face interactions are seamless.
“The set looked deceitfully simple but gave the actors plenty to work with. I particularly liked the DNA-like installations. For its humorous moments and strong performances alone, e-baby appeals, but it is the way it challenges preconceptions and sheds a light on surrogacy that make this a show well worth seeing.”
– Beth Klein, The Melbourne Observer
“…a powerful and thought-provoking new Australian production by playwright and journalist Jane Cafarella.”
– Cate Altamura, film news.co.uk
“…the play stays resolutely away from sentimentality to bring to the stage an affecting story that is all too real and sad for many people.”
– Myron My, Theatre Press
e-baby goes behind the celebrity surrogacy stories and shines a light on a world where new life can start with an online ad.
The Melbourne premiere of e-baby was proudly supported by…
DIRECT TICKETING LINK:
e-baby Melbourne premiere creative team
Talking about surrogacy ...
A post-show Q & A was held on International Women’s Day, Sunday March 8
A vigorous debate, chaired by Louise Johnson, Executive Director at the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority, was conducted by experts from both sides of the surrogacy debate after the 5pm show on Sunday 8 March, in The Loft at Chapel Off Chapel.
- Jane Cafarella, writer/producer – e-baby
- Prof Manuela Toledo, Infertility Specialist at Melbourne IVF
- Assoc Prof Justin Oakley, BA, PhD (Philosophy) at Monash University Centre for Human Bioethics
- Dr Catherine Lynch, of the Australian Adoptee Rights Action Group
- Dr Renata Klein, feminist health advocate and author
- Renee Gollard, altruistic surrogate, representing Surrogacy Australia
Journalist, cartoonist, editor, playwright – and mother
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