Narratives of Empathy and Resilience
Amber-Rose May is a director, performer and theatre maker who specialises in creating thought provoking and magical theatre for young people with her company Lots of Odds. In collaboration with Half Moon, Amber-Rose created and performed in the digital production of Bump (streaming now until 1 April 2021), a brand new show for all the family, especially parents to be, that celebrates the diverse experiences of pregnancy and a new life being brought into the world.
We caught up with Amber-Rose to find out more about the show, the inspiration for the story, and why Bump allows audiences to focus on their unborn child and their experiences of pregnancy.
Tell us a little about Bump. What’s the show about?
Bump is a funny, one-woman show for expectant parents and their families. It celebrates a new life being brought into the world and follows a comic day in the life of Inmaculada, who’s seven months pregnant and craving cereal.
Why did you choose to stage this show?
I wanted to explore the perceptions and diversity of parenthood, the emotional and hormonal challenges faced during pregnancy, and to open up conversations about the growth of an unborn child, between parents and children.
I also wanted to demystify the stigma of a pregnant performer being on stage and to create future work opportunities for pregnant performers. When we filmed Bump, I was in the third trimester of my pregnancy.
Where did the idea for the production come from?
It started with a conversation with Chris Elwell at Half Moon Theatre, who I’ve worked with on previous shows, about the future of touring productions now that I was expecting a baby. Chris very much opened up a new conversation about the possibility of a new show.
Flurries of ideas and excitement followed and I began looking into the importance of the connectivity between parents and the unborn child. It soon became apparent that an experience like Bump had never been explored before and this provided a fantastic opportunity to create a unique show, whilst pregnant, for young audiences.
How did the piece come to fruition?
We began by sharing our own experiences of being a parent, expecting a baby, and thoughts around pregnancy. We then gathered a number of questions and research points we wanted to explore further and reached out virtually, because of the pandemic, to expectant parents via online groups, as well as talking to people we knew personally who were expecting a baby.
Alongside this we spoke to a local midwife in Bexley and I asked lots of questions to the community of midwives I saw on a regular basis during my pregnancy check-ups. It soon became obvious that we were on an exciting journey.
You were pregnant when you created Bump and there are some very humorous moments. Are these autobiographical?
I am a huge believer that with any show created there is always a part of each and every member of the creative team involved, so of course some, but not all, of the humorous moments were inspired by my experiences. However we were very conscious to incorporate the experiences of other expectant parents that were discussed, shared and explored during the show’s research process.
The comedy was heightened during the rehearsals as my own ‘bump’ was growing at quite a pace, so the movement and actions would change from day to day. It was extremely enjoyable to experiment with this and find the humour.
“The fruit also represents growth, the unravelling and peeling of new beginnings and, just like a baby, when the seed is planted, miracles can happen.”
Tango music – and the dance itself – features in the production. What is it about the tango that attracted you?
The idea of tango music came quite early on in the process when sharing ideas with Dougie Evans, our sound designer, and Chris, the director. The rhythm of tango is so exciting! It became a hook for the show and also established a setting.
Fruit features a lot. Tell us more!
At the beginning of the show Inmaculada is seen carrying the last shopping bag in from the supermarket, and fruit is part of the shopping. It soon became apparent that food was such an important part of the pregnancy experience – from cravings, to food aversions, to making sure your unborn child is receiving enough nutrition.
We played with colours, shapes and the textures of fruit when comparing it to the shape of my ‘bump’. The fruit also represents growth, the unravelling and peeling of new beginnings and, just like a baby, when the seed is planted, miracles can happen.
There’s a rather poignant moment with your dance shoes. What were you trying to achieve in this sequence?
We wanted to highlight the fact that having a baby brings about a lot of changes to your life. Inmaculada remembers dancing and what that means to her, now she is expecting a child. However, rather than giving up the tango completely, we wanted to show that Inmaculada makes adjustments to her daily routine to accommodate the new child. This brings about an emotional response, and we hope audiences can relate to this poignant moment in a positive way.
Bump was created during the pandemic. How did this impact on the creative process?
The pandemic certainly brought its challenges! We adapted our in-person workshops with expectant parents, baby groups and midwives to virtual interviews and conversations. All the rehearsals were socially distanced and our sound designer worked virtually from home, though we communicated daily. Videoing each scene and watching it back was an essential tool to develop, share and embed new material.
“We want to convey the celebration of life as a whole, with a positive outlook for future events, as well as empathising and understanding the challenges a new baby can bring.”
How do you want audiences to feel when they watch the show?
I would like audiences to feel inspired, proud, elated and joyful when watching the show. We want to convey the celebration of life as a whole, with a positive outlook for future events, as well as empathising and understanding the challenges a new baby can bring. I’d hope that audiences can relate to the humour of the show – it certainly aims for ‘laugh out loud moments’ and this in itself is a joy to observe – and also the emotional nuances.
And what feelings or emotions would you like them to leave with?
Happiness, hope and pride; bringing about an everlasting feeling of love for their growing child.
Why should people watch Bump?
To brighten up their day and laugh at moments of absurdity that I am sure we can all relate to. It will also give audiences the chance to really focus on their unborn child – whether they are the mother, father, partner, surrogate, sibling or other family member – and their experiences of pregnancy so far. It also gives them space and time to forget about the outside world and immerse them in a piece of relatable theatre.
And finally, what’s happened to your own bump?!
I am very happy to say that my partner and I now have a beautiful baby boy.
Bump is available to stream for FREE until 1 April 2021. Captions and a British Sign Language interpreted version are available.
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