Abortion affects 1 in 3 women. It seems a topic that most sectors of society are aware of, and yet also one that is very rarely discussed in any sort of intimate detail. Therese Ramstedt tackles this rather uncomfortable subject head-on in Mission Abort, sharing her personal experiences in a one-woman show that takes us from the three potential conceptions of the baby-but-not-a-baby, through the actual abortion itself and then out the other side.
Ramstedt guides us through the piece with an abrupt clarity, and an unforgiving eye for detail. The frankness of the discussion is commendable, and surrounded by clinical white chairs and a hospital bed she feels ostracized onstage in a similar way to the feelings of isolation in real life. However, emotionally, Ramstedt takes a little while to connect with us. She’s a striking and powerful presence onstage, but not necessarily an instantly likeable one. Her pragmatism is nigh brutish at times – that and the abrupt nature of the sound effects have a tendency to make the piece feel rather disjointed.
The most emotionally successful and touching moment comes when she faces out, blinded slightly by the lights, asking for two volunteers to hold her hand while the actual abortion itself happens. Two complete strangers silently stand up, walk up onto the stage and hold her hand while what seems like a vacuum cleaner sucks out the inside of her womb. It’s awfully, horrifically clinical, with Ramstedt’s legs spread-eagled in the air, the indignity of the situation only made bearable by the kindness and stoicness of the two spectators, personally volunteering to support someone through this potentially traumatic event. With most audience participation sections there’s a feeling of imposition, where people are dragged into the spotlight. The fact that two people got up of their own free will created a sense of empathy that finally allowed us to properly bond with Ramstedt’s story.
I want to have really liked Mission Abort. Anyone choosing to theatrically document the story of their abortion automatically rises to the top of the list of women-I-want-to-grow-up-to-be. However, the mosaic of sound effects, music, chairs and words are all rather crowbarred in, creating a piecemeal form instead of something that organically flows from line to line, breath to breath. A wonderful show about a subject that needs to shed its taboo, but in a form that creates some problems.