The Love I Feel is Red

Oran Mor, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

three stars

Two women – Mona is 29, Susan probably some 30 years older – meet in the aftermath of unexpected, harrowing loss. An accident, not as graphically detailed as some of what will later surface, has robbed Susan of her only child and Mona of her boyfriend. Perhaps previous differences will diminish in the sharing of grief? Writer Sabrina Mahfouz defies sentimentality with divisive complications that introduce epic issues of self-determination, freedom of life choices, and a woman’s right to make those choices.

An initially stilted encounter steadily howls into a raw, urgent expression of what even well-intentioned decision-making can cost – the truism “you can’t have it all” is a bitter pill to swallow... as bitter as the pill Mona swallowed when she terminated her recent pregnancy. The baby’s father, Ty, was still alive then. Would they have stayed together? Eventually had the family he – and Susan – wanted? Such thwarted possibilities compound the guilt and reproaches that ricochet between the women, but Mahfouz further intensifies the situation with elements of their respective back stories: the unresolvable question then becomes one of what a woman gives up in her own life when she brings another life into the world.

The whole piece – directed by Nel Crouch and produced in association with Tobacco Factory Theatres – simply bristles and writhes with emotive language and frank, unflinchingly blood-saturated descriptions of birth, miscarriage and abortion. It’s a rollercoaster ride between bruising admissions and anguished heartache but Heather William brings touching dignity to Susan’s growing awareness of what losses Ty’s brief life had already imposed on her while Janet Etuk as Mona brilliantly echoes that character’s sure-footed flair for free-running by letting febrile words pour out with an impeccably sure-tongued instinct for Mahfouz’s thought-provoking intentions.

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