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THEATRE: 23 OCTOBER 2016

By JOHN ROZENTALS

E-baby, by Jane Cafarella | Directed by Nadia Tass

Ensemble Theatre (http://ensemble.com.au) | Ensemble Theatre, Kirribilli, Sydney | Until 13 November

It took a little bit of thought but I eventually realised that the answer to my question of what was the secret to the success of e-baby lay in the name of one of Ensemble’s recent productions — The Casting Couch.

Director Nadia Tass’s choice of Danielle Carter and Gabrielle Scawthorn to play out this contemporary and poignant two-hander was inspired.

Carter is spot-on as Catherine, the successful, humourless, formality-driven London-based Australian lawyer who desperately wants the child she can’t carry herself.

I doubt Catherine could make love to her husband until all conditions and possibilities were rigorously documented. All crossed and dotted exactly as appropriate, and heaven-forbid if there’s an urge for spontaneity.

Scawthorn plays perfectly the role of Nellie, the young Massachusetts woman who accepts cash payment to carry Catherine’s child, hand it over soon after birth, then exit the scene.

She’s naive. Her life experience has been less than worldly. Her outlook may be simple but she isn’t stupid and at least she has a heart and a pulse.

Catherine’s law firm has a branch in New York, so there is plenty of face-to-face contact but experiences are mainly shared through more modern devices such as mobile phones, texts and Skype.

You know that there wouldn’t be a play in this if it was all smooth sailing and everything fell perfectly into place — and so it doesn’t.

To talk too obviously about the traumas would require an equally obvious spoiler alert, so I won’t go there.

But I will say that the two women do encounter plenty of speed humps on their journey, and that Director Tass does a fine job in bringing Jan Cafarella’s provocative, dilemma-laden work to the Ensemble stage in Kirribilli.

And special mention must go the production’s AV Designer, Christopher Page, for constructing on-stage systems that worked a treat and provide the reality necessary without ever coming across as clunky.

All images: Clare Hawley. Above: Danielle Carter and Gabrielle Scawthorn.

Danielle Carter.

Gabrielle Scawthorn.

Gabrielle Scawthorn and Danielle Carter.