I’m not going to pretend that I’m a particularly knowledgeable person when it comes to abortion. Despite my lack of awareness, one thing I had always been fairly confident of was that the subject (at least in the UK) was no longer a taboo one. How could it be? Abortion has been legal in the UK for over 50 years, and I’ve lost count of the number of jokey conversations I’ve overheard a variety of women having on the topic.
But Mission Abort, the one-woman-show brought to life by Therese Ramstedt, has shone a spotlight on many of my previously held assumptions, resulting in one of the most engaging plays I’ve seen in years.
Ramstedt takes us on a journey where she plays a 26-year-old young lady discovering she has recently become pregnant. Intercut with various flashbacks to before the conception, we accompany her as she goes through the trials and procedures leading up to the life-changing event. Though confident in her choice to have an abortion, Ramstedt nonetheless runs the gauntlet of emotions as she struggles with a variety of opinions and thoughts. In other words: How can a choice that is so right be so hard?
We open on a single white examination table. Ramstedt lies on her back, legs splayed and her head draped over the side as she introduces her current predicament to the audience. It’s an arresting beginning and one that shows an astounding amount of confidence in both subject matter and dialogue.
With such an ineffable topic, Ramstedt and director Claire Stone, make sure to pepper the piece with multiple instances of comedy. Indeed, sometimes the seemingly mundane aspects of having an abortion, such as being put on hold in a telephone queue, are laughably quaint in view of the momentous decision that is being undertaken.
Yet there are also moments of great pain and sadness. One particular moment results in Ramstedt singing a mournful solo. Not only does she have a beautiful singing voice, but the scene puts a firm nail in the coffin that abortion could ever be considered an easy task.
But it’s not all private anecdotes (though to be fair Ramstedt never states if these stories are from personal ordeals); as she also touches upon the political aspects of abortion. These range from the recorded real-life rantings of Donald Trump, to the informative experiences of Irish women who are forced to seek out terminations in the UK due to the laws of their native land.
In spite of her unwavering commitment to her decision, Ramstedt also addresses the loneliness that results in having an abortion. Though one in three UK women will have an abortion in their lifetime, very few are willing to talk openly about it. As such Ramstedt’s play essentially takes the place of that much needed conversation, allowing women (and men) a chance to share in the emotions that result from this procedure.
Mission Abort is a one-actor-show at its absolute finest. Moving and hilarious in equal measure, Ramstedt and her team have crafted a piece that faces a difficult topic head-on, and bravely explores every aspect in a way that shows us that a right choice is not necessarily an easy choice.
Mission Abort was performed from 7th February – 8th February at the Waterloo Vaults during the 2018 VAULTS Festival.
Written and performed by Therese Ramstedt
Directed by Claire Stone
Produced by Courtenay Johnson & Latana Phoung
Dramaturgy by Jules Haworth
Lighting Design by Will Abell
Sound Design by Ingmar Kamalagharan & Rosi Croom
Original Music by Therese Ramstedt & Rosi Croom