Playwright: Kelley Jo Burke
Director: Crystal Jonasson
Cast: Andrea Adcock and Allison Warwick
Review by: Anne Bokma
Having my 16-year-old daughter with me in the audience for the production of Jane’s Thumb had the unintended benefit of being an excellent form of birth control. After watching the labour-induced grunting gyrations of Jane, a librarian terrified about giving birth (“some people are meant for nuturing, others for cross-referencing”), she turned to me and said, “Wow, that looks like it really hurts.” I just nodded. Very, very slowly.
We couldn’t take our eyes off the compelling Andrea Adcock, who not only plays Jane with anxiety-ridden abandon, neurotic with desperate worry in the way that only a soon-to-be mom can be, but also takes on the roles of a range of woodland characters from Hans Christian Anderson’s Thumbelina. The fable of a miniature girl—so small you could hold her in the palm of your hand and who encounters and rebuffs creatures in the woods—is used as an allegory here for the adventure of birth and its psychological hurdles. (Note to theatre-goers: it may help to brush up or familiarize yourself with the Thumblina story before you see this play, otherwise many of the references may have you feeling lost.) Adcock’s physical expression is simply stunning as she morphs into a turtle, housefly, frog, salamander and lark, who each, in turn, confront “Thumb,” (played by the delightfully impish Allison Warwick), the little girl who awaits her birth and awakening. Warwick is as equally compelling as Adcock and together the two, dressed in white yoga gear on a bare stage, take you on a riveting childbirth journey filled with Demerol-induced hallucinations, nostalgic childhood rhymes and imaginings, internal exams (both the physical and psychological kind), and harrowing birthing pains described (accurately, as I can personally attest) as “a tire iron slamming into your back.” Under the acutely sensitive supervision of first-time director Crystal Jonasson, the ending is both surprising and satisfying, as these two characters finally confront each other, marvelling at the miracle of the transformation they have experienced.
Anyone who is curious about the experience of childbirth should see this show. And if you think that’s not you, guys, think again. The man beside me was weeping by the play’s end. I had a tear in my eye too, especially when I looked over at my now fully grown daughter and wished I could still hold her in the palm of my hand.