Tag: Carolyn Bock

REVIEW: Jane Cafarella’s E-BABY

A tale of two women

By Myron My

For some people, giving birth and becoming a parent is the most beautiful experience in life. There are unfortunately women who are unable to carry a baby to term and so turn to surrogacy. In Jane Cafarella’s ebaby, inspired by interviews with infertile women and surrogates who share their stories online, we meet an accomplished lawyer who has been trying unsuccessfully for her own child for seven years. She finds a surrogate to carry her baby and we follow the relationship of these two women over the course of the pregnancy.


Both Carolyn Bock (Catherine) and Sarah Ranken (Nellie) do a solid job in portraying the often-tense relationship between these two women. Whilst it initially and naturally took a few scenes for them to appear comfortable with their characters on the preview night of e-baby, their performances feel realistic and honest. Bock finds the right balance in showing a woman who is excited about the prospect of being a mother but also depicting the desperation and shame that she would feel in fear of being seen as less of a woman. She does this both subtly and powerfully through the most miniscule of actions: a fleeting stare, a taut smile and a twitching, fidgety hand. I would have liked to see her more emotive however in the moments where Catherine appears at her weakest and most frustrated.

Ranken similarly finds her stride as the somewhat chaotic but laid-back surrogate, Nellie. The vlogs she posts online to her surrogate community are used as a confessional for the Christian mother of two to express her doubts and uncertainties about being a first-time surrogate. Ranken organically brings to surface Nellie’s naivety in not fully comprehending what she has agreed to, and the conflict this then provokes with her religious beliefs.

Cafarella’s script examines the ‘forced’ friendship between these women, and the profound difficulties that each face after  signing such a contract become apparent. The few repetitive scenes can be forgiven due to Cafarella’s tackling of the subject so sensitively and expertly, which is no surprise considering she has been exploring and writing about surrogacy for over 25 years.

There appears to have been great collaboration by production designer Matilda Woodroofe, lighting designer Siobhain Geaney, video designer Brian Cohen and sound designer Kahra Scott-James, as the various technical elements of e-baby come together well in building on the emotions of the characters, but never detract from the characters’ stories or leave us feeling overwhelmed. The poignant illumination of a pregnant woman on to the set’s wooden boxes was particularly effective in showing Catherine’s yearning for motherhood.

e-baby is a good character piece about two women who form an unlikely bond through the blurred lines of commercial surrogacy. The preview performance shows that there is a lot of heart and thought in this work from everyone involved, but the play stays resolutely away from sentimentality to bring to stage an affecting story that is all too real and sad for many people.

Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran

Season: Until 15 March | Wed-Sat 8:00pm, Sun 5:00pm, Tuesday 10 March and Saturday 14 March 2pm

Tickets: $40 Full | $35 Conc

Bookings: www.chapeloffchapel.com.au or 8290 7000



Fascinating biography reaches a new audience

By Myron My

Amy Maud Bock was a New Zealand confidence trickster and male impersonator in the late 1800s/early 1900s. She was also the first child of Carolyn Bock’s great-grandfather Alfred. Using press articles and Amy’s own letters and transcripts, Bock attempts to bring this woman to life once more in this new work-in-development Habitual Criminal.

Habitual Criminal

All the actors – Martin Blum, Chris Bunworth, Helen Hopkins and Bock – were full of energy, displaying strong commitment to their roles. The myriad of characters they each portrayed – even if only for a few minutes – was done with much gusto, especially from Hopkins and Bunworth. I can see them having more fun with the roles as they develop this piece further and no longer require the script on stage with them, giving them the opportunity to use their hands and bodies more freely and to maintain eye contact with each other and the audience.

The props and costumes, whilst kept to a minimum, did well in setting the scenes up and providing context to the story. The character changes that happened with the removal of a shawl or the putting on of a coat were creatively executed and never broke the flow of the story.

Habitual Criminal was performed as part of La Mama’s Explorations season of works in various developments and in Bock’s own words, ‘this is the beginning’ of this production. It’s a very impressive and dynamic beginning too, however I feel the pace needed to slow down a little to allow for the audience to fully digest and comprehend what was happening on stage. I often found myself working hard to keep up with the actors and the material, and felt I lost quite a bit in trying to play catch-up. The story of Amy Maud Bock is quite unique and highly interesting – as my own research as inspired by this show has shown – so it would be a shame for any of this to be lost in translation and execution.