THREE Sisters Productions returns to Edinburgh with Siofra Dromgoole’s new play, a perplexing story of a mixed-race relationship which is marred by muddled messaging.
Baby, What Blessings! is the story of Billie, a naive university undergraduate, as she recounts her relationship with Amal. The relationship has a profound impact on Billie, causing her to develop an infatuation which is all-consuming even as it brings her face to face with her white privilege.
Billie, played by Grainne Dromgoole, is presented as someone with developing mental health issues. Her flatmate, she reveals, is urging her to seek therapy. Her obsession with Amal is unhealthy and her level of self-absorption goes beyond what is typical for a young person just starting to discover who they are. As Billie tells her story the focus is on her, pushing Amal’s voice into the background.
This ultimately ends up obscuring what it feels like the play is trying to say about individual accountability and responsibility. Billie’s story doesn’t feel like a window into her life; it feels like a performance and it’s unclear whether this is part of the character or if it is down to the acting. And maybe that is the point.
Dromgoole does a good job carrying the audience’s attention by herself but it felt frustrating being stuck with Billie’s limited perspective.
Billie’s romanticising of her relationship with Amal means that we are left with a performance of pure self-justification, rather than anything more meaningful. And as can be expected, this falls flat as entertainment. The more Billie talks about her feelings, the more difficult it becomes to care.
This head-scratching production is further hampered by the staging. Dromgoole is alone onstage throughout, accompanied only by a chair and a painted backdrop which doesn’t feel as if it has anything to do with the play.
Although the stage was raised, sightlines were obstructed due to the seating arrangements and Dromgoole is often seated during the play which means that anyone seated beyond the second row will often be left with just her voice to go on.
Billie’s experiences no doubt ring true for thousands of people who suddenly discovered new ideas and perspectives at university. However, these ideas are difficult to pin down within this play and makes this an interesting but somewhat frustrating watch.