Baby, What Blessings is a well-crafted piece of theatre, untangling a complex relationship between a white woman, Billie, and a black man, Amal. Billie is the lone narrator of this story, inviting us into her fragile mind as she navigates power, politics, race and mental health, drowning in her youthful naivety. These sweeping issues come into focus through a lens of intense intimacy, creating a perspective that is unique in its sensitivity and insightfulness.
Baby, What Blessings is a monologue, a graceful and intelligent stream of consciousness written by Siofra Dromgoole and exceptionally delivered by her sister Grainne Dromgoole. Her writing is poetic and poignant, laced with witty sarcasm that is well timed and expertly executed.
The play is profoundly personal, challenging the fetishisation of teenage love rather than romanticising it. Dromgoole explores the danger of a relationship between two people who do not even know themselves yet. Billie blindly dives into a relationship that she is not yet ready for and she pays the price.
Listening to Billie’s monologue is like reading a book. She overflows with words; she says she is “obsessed with words”. Billie is desperate to tell the audience everything and her haste is tangible as she retraces each milestone of her and Amal’s relationship, the excited passion and curiosity of their first meeting gradually transforming into a toxic battlefield on which nobody finds victory.
The play is incredibly effective in its simplicity: one actor, one chair, and minimal sound and lighting. It is a difficult task to create such a myriad of characters on stage with just one actor, but Grainne Dromgoole pulls it off spectacularly. She seamlessly slips out of her own role as Billie, becoming the other half of a conversation between Billie and her best friend Poppy, or Amal. This technique cleverly embodies exactly what Billie is struggling with; hearing what other people have to say, and actually listening to it.
Baby, What Blessings finds its genius in that Billie should be the enemy; she is sheltered, privileged and entitled, and she knows this. You should hate her, but you can’t quite bring yourself to do so, because she is so relatable. Dromgoole writes her as someone who is desperately trying to understand race, power and privilege rather than ignore them. She is desperately trying to do better. Just like all of us.
Billie’s monologue is a trial of herself, confronting a dangerous ignorance that so many of us are guilty of. “I didn’t do, I let,” she says, her ultimate self-conviction closes the play, leaving the heavy question of who is to blame.
Baby, What Blessings is Siofra Dromgoole’s third play, a true showcase of immense talent and creativity. This play is undoubtedly worthy of its place at the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe.
Baby, What Blessings is on at theSpace @ Surgeon’s Hall
At 10:05 until 24th August (excluding 18th)
Buy tickets here
Image: Jonathan Notley