Tag: Sarah Ranken

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

Review: UNCLE VANYA by Hotwire Productions

An engrossing interpretation of a modern masterpiece

By Anastasia Russell-Head

Chekhov’s works, like Shakespeare’s, serve to unite humanity and human foibles across time and continents.

More than a century after Uncle Vanya was first penned, and on the opposite side of the globe, we’re still dealing with the same stuff – complaining about our lives, falling in love with the wrong people, allowing ourselves to be irritated and manipulated by our relatives, and falling victim to paralyzing inaction.

Director and adaptor Laurence Strangio brings the characters in this play slightly out of history, and makes their plight poignantly relevant to today by, as he writes in the program notes, not feeling “bound by historical accuracy”.

Although ostensibly the characters remain in nineteenth-century Russia, the language and idioms are not forcibly “historical”, but fall naturally onto twenty-first-century ears – drawing the similarities through time rather than highlighting the differences between then and now.

A superb ensemble cast portray the quirky characters with relish, from the hyperbolic gravitas of Peter Finlay’s Professor, to Bruce Woolley’s dry and proudly eccentric Dr Astrov. Although not always the most convincing member of the cast, Sarah Ranken brings a quiet strength and pathos to the character of Sonya, especially in her moving speech at the end of the play. Notable mention must also be made of Richard Bligh and Louise O’Dwyer.

The sumptuous set makes use of the full width of iconic theatre space fortyfivedownstairs, drawing the audience into the action, and feeling almost like we’re inside an isolated night-time country house alongside the characters. All it needed was an open fireplace to complete the illusion! A couple of sight line issues and passages in which characters deliver lines to the back wall are very minor flaws.

Although not by any means a short play (allow three hours, including interval) this production kept my attention throughout, made me laugh, nearly made me cry, and certainly made me think about what it is to be human and to construct a life. In the words of Uncle Vanya, “to start a new life… where to begin?

MAY 16 – JUNE 3 


45 Flinders Lane

Tuesday – Saturday 8pm

Saturday matinee 4pm

Sundays 6pm

Tickets: $38 / $25 / $15 school groups

Bookings:  03 9662 9966 / fortyfivedownstairs.com