Vessel is a play about women’s bodies and choice written by and starring Laura Wyatt O’Keeffe. Maia is a pregnant receptionist in a refugee support centre in Ireland, who does not want to continue with the pregnancy. She meets journalist, David, (Edward De Gaetano) at the funeral of Astur, a refugee girl who died by suicide in the refugee centre. The play takes place before the referendum to repeal the 8th amendment in Ireland, so abortion is still illegal, with dozens of women travelling to England every week to terminate pregnancies.
Maia will be one of the many women who travel but shuns her right to anonymity by tweeting about her decision, which goes viral and prompts David to ask if he can tell her story. The first half of the play shows Maia trying to negotiate the public attention whilst making a very personal choice, with even her own family distancing themselves publicly over her actions.
Vessel is both emotionally hard-hitting and subtle, with a rawness at its core. David wants to make Maia a vessel, a symbol of the whole movement to repeal the 8thamendment while carrying his own prejudices and a complicated viewpoint due to his own fertility. Both characters are flawed and the pair display a naivety over the vitriol Maia’s activism will prompt.
The play is brilliantly written and the two actors convincingly portray two ordinary people who are thrown together through extraordinary circumstances. The pair form a believable bond as they travel to England for Maia’s termination, with Maia comforted and saddened to hear women speaking her own accent in the clinic waiting room. This is a contemporary play, but you could imagine it being played to a new generation of young women born post-repeal, who will only ever know the right to safe and legal abortion.
The minimal set and direction from Chris Gatt allows the material to shine. The play does not skirt around the termination itself, with Maia and David both narrating the experience. It’s challenging to witness but that’s the purpose of the production – to challenge your own ideas, opinions and biases and question how you would navigate a similar situation. Vessel is a powerful, thought-provoking drama that will stay with you long after you leave the theatre.