My Pregnant Brother

Rating *****
Reviewed by Alex Foott

Performance date – Weds 31st July 2013

Canadian theatre company Freestanding glides into the Edinburgh Fringe with a fresh one-woman show that flings together the themes of gender, identity and family and explores the combustion that ensues.

Juxtaposing a level-headed approach to the increasingly sensitive matter of sexuality with the monstrous exposure of the base human psyche, it is simultaneously endearing, repulsive and heart-wrenching.

Johanna Nutter enthrals in this unusual yet completely autobiographical account of the years in which her sister underwent gender reassignment surgery, continuing on to become ‘a pregnant man’. She guides us through the performance with admirable candor and identifies herself as the mediator in her family. What is fascinating about this piece is that the obvious ‘gender-centric’ difficulties it poses fade into obscurity once Nutter unravels the fraying knot of her dysfunctional family. At first Johanna is a true altruist, providing her relatives with money and shelter yet when she witnesses the birth of her brother’s child, her maternal instincts are transformed into obsession. When she reveals her frustrations, we understand this attachment and see that, in fact, both siblings are unhappy in their bodies.

There is a certain adage that proclaims honesty to be the best policy. This certainly contributes to the success of this piece. Nutter’s confident and relaxed performance lends itself perfectly to the portrayal of real events. By simply talking to the audience she strikes up a rapport, and even laughed with them over a brief technical blip. She is unabashed when recounting her bout of depression which in turn deepens the audience’s trust in her version of events.

My Pregnant Brother is a commendable feat of bravery. A pioneer in modern storytelling, Nutter offers us a narrative that carefully handles two sides of a very delicate case and invites us to share in its joy, woe and anger. This is one of the most socially relevant pieces I have seen in a long time and should be seen by as wide an audience as possible.

My Pregnant Brother – Freestanding
Written by Johanna Nutter
Directed by Jeremy Taylor