Any Womb Will Do – Gavin Roach and the baby thing. (Sydney Fringe F Theatre Review)
In a follow-up performance to Gavin Roach’s Confessions of a Grindr Addict, the character of Felix is delightfully revived a few years on from when we saw him last. In Any Womb Will Do he’s older now, still a bit of an odd ball, but as loveable as ever. Roach is a talented writer, and performs his own material well. Now he moves on, has Felix grow up a little, and faces the very difficult topic of having a baby in a world where the womb reigns supreme.
This isn’t the first time the issue of baby-making is on the agenda at Sydney Fringe. I saw Life Force a few days before I saw Any Womb Will Do, and I couldn’t help notice the politics of baby-making behind the very real question of human desires and human rights. We live in a world where child baring and raising are heavily politicized acts. A burning desire to have a child, and take the enormous leap of responsibility that it entails are not the only criteria for parenthood. In fact, they are barely criteria at all, as this country elects a Prime Minister who doesn’t care at all how burdensome or unwanted a child might be, nor how hostile the environment to them, but insists on throwing children in the deep end to sink or swim willy-nilly. The fact remains that children are a symbol of a suburban utopia at the micro level, alongside the house, the car, the wife and the job. Deeper than that they are the non-existent hope of innocence and purity, a chance to make a “perfect-mini-me” when I so screwed up the original. At the universal they are the promise of growing a “healthy” country, the poorer you are, the more babies you should have in order to create a modest, hard-working under class. To have a child is a political act, no two ways about it.
When Gavin Roach’s Felix stands before an audience and declares he wants a child, it is a deep act of courage and a great act of subversion. It is an assault to the political manipulations of child baring and raising and it is an attack on the appropriation of science to support those manipulations. Felix does more than just suggest he would love to care for a child. He exposes the hypocrisy associated with our traditional conception of child raising. If there is anything even slightly affected about Felix’s desire, then we can’t help but acknowledge it is in us also. Whats the difference between a gay man saying he’d love to dress his twin girls in the same clothes, and a woman saying she’d love to dress her twin girls in the same clothes?
And it is in this, that Gavin Roach is so talented. In Any Womb will Do, his Felix is a warm, funny, adorably cute, rather silly gay man for whom one feels instant and great affection. Roach has the ability to connect with his audience immediately, using his monologue to gain deep connections so that we like Felix and hang on his every word. Nothing is overlayed and yet Felix has a deep yearning wisdom inside that attracts the intellect of his audience, revealing aspects of our own lives and the hypocrisies of our judgements of others. With great verbal dexterity, Felix weaves his way around your judgements until you’re suddenly confronted with your own internal politics around children. A politics I guarantee you imagined didn’t exist. If there is anything at all false about Felix’s longing for his own children, then it must be acknowledged there is something terribly false about our own.
For my own part, I’d always felt children should be granted to those who love them and want to care for them and raise them respectfully, regardless of age, race, or sexual preference. It was always about the rights of the parent. The rights of the child were only in terms of mental, intellectual and physical health. It wasn’t until I saw Gavin Roach’s Felix speak of his longing for a child, that I realized there was more to it than that. Felix must raise a child, not for our benefit, but for the benefit of children and the burdens we place on them through our hyper-realised-inauthenticities. It is the Felix’s of the world that expose the rest of us. They are the contemporary counter-action to the subterranean control we exert over our children.
In the end it is Felix himself who must make this happen, in the same way that the heaviest burden always falls to our heroes and revolutionaries. What I didn’t realise until I listened to Felix, was that his act of subversion was as much a gift of necessity to me as it is to the lucky children he will raise.
Any Womb Will Do is now showing at the King Street Theatre in Newtown as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival.