BY RICHARD STAMP
We admit – we’re taking a chance today, and recommending a play we’ve never actually seen. In fact, it’s having its UK premiere here in Brighton. But there’s no disputing its pedigree: playwright Monica Bauer’s previous work earned our top rating in Edinburgh last year, while director Chris Hislop has consistently impressed us both in Brighton and in London. And with a topical jumping-off point leading into a genuinely intriguing plot, our hopes are high for another stand-out performance.
At first glance, The Maternal Instinct seems to tread a well-worn pathway: a recently-married couple, a woman who’s desperate for a baby, and a partner who’s not so sure. But when you spot that the newlyweds are called Sarah and Lilian, you realise this can only be a fresh and fascinating take on an age-old dilemma. And as the two married women search for a donor to father their child, scientist Lilian finds that her research into the maternal instinct adopts a far more personal meaning.
When we reviewed Bauer’s last play Made For Each Other at the Edinburgh Fringe, we praised its intelligent analysis of a complex issue – and its accessible, often hilarious, originality. But in many ways, what impressed us most about it were the things it chose not say. That story, too, centred on a same-sex marriage… yet the mere fact that gay marriage was legal was an almost incidental detail of the plot. With The Maternal Instinct, we’re hoping for another thoughtful glimpse of the future – which sidesteps short-term controversy on the nature of wedlock, and shines a light on the true dilemmas that lie beyond.