The Royal Exchange ‘s B!rth Festival (link) opens with two plays on the subject of state control, one from India, the other from China.  Both plays illuminate very real issues in each country.  Both plays consider situations where science and superstition collide.  Both address big issues through very personal scenes.

‘And all along you thought you were doing us a favour’.  In OUROBOROS BY Swati Simha, a new doctor enters an Indian village to both conduct forced sterilisation (1 in 3 Indian women are sterilised) and to try to safely deliver new babies. The local midwife struggles to do this. The play looks at the conflict between the state policy of sterilisation, the high rate of infant mortality due to disease, and the inability of modern medicine to help due to a lack of electricity, clean water and safe equipment. A play about life, death, guilt and why we should solve the problems of inequality first.

‘I didn’t know that only a son is blessed’.  The second play, A SON SOON by Xu Nuo translated by Jeremy Tiang, focuses on the one child policy in China, amended to two in 2015, but which appears to be relaxed for those with money.  One woman wants a fourth child to hold onto her marriage and her moneyed way of life.  The other feels her family’s pressure to have a son, in the form of repeated abortions, after the obvious disappointment of a daughter.  How do you view children differently under such a policy? How does this change the way that women are viewed?

Following the plays was a wide ranging and stimulating panel discussion on the subjects raised in the plays.  Topics discussed included:

  • Human Rights and Gender Issues.  In particular the lack of a woman’s control over her own decisions about children in many parts of the world.
  • Population versus Consumption.   Should everyone be worried about population growth and their impact, regardless of wealth, in the world?
  • Status.  Too often, women get the blame for wanting more children, but this should be a shared responsibility from everyone.

The Festival continues with five more plays on Thursday and Friday, with all seven on Saturday.  Alongside are an impressive number of events, and debates with high quality speakers. In addition, all plays will be made available online for communities both in the UK and worldwide to use; education is a powerful tool in moving towards a more equal world.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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