Bioethics News

Review: The Waiting Room

There is something sterile about the textbook definition of IVF – “a form of assisted reproduction where the eggs from a woman are extracted under anaesthetic and placed in a culture dish with thousands of sperm, allowing the process of fertilisation to take place.”

For its proponents, IVF is a profound gift from science to humanity – it gives infertile couples and single parents an opportunity to have a child. For its detractors,represents the intrusion of technology into procreation, the most sacred area of human experience. It evokes Huxley’s nightmarish vision of children decanted in vats and the disappearance of motherhood.

These conflicting perspectives are brought to life in Kylie Trounsen’s Melbourne Theatre Company play The Waiting Room. The play is an admirable attempt to capture the emotional and moral dimensions of IVF.

The complexities of IVF

 The play is rather peculiar – philosophical yet comical, polemical yet absurd. Kylie Trounsen – the daughter of IVF pioneer Alan Trousen – interweaves reflections on her own life and her father’s life with stories of couples desperately seeking IVF treatment. In the midst of this there’s also significant philosophical musing – about the ethics of IVF, human participation in creation, and Frankenstein concerns about ‘playing God’. Surprisingly Trounsen engages in quite a sophisticated theatrical dialogue with the two chief opponents of IVF – feminists and the Catholic Church.

The complexity of the script is perhaps a weakness. “Dramaturgically, it bites off more than it can chew”, observed SMH’s Cameron Woodhead. And at times didactic monologues from Kylie Trousen – who has inserted herself as a prominent character in the script – get in the way of hilariously wacky dialogue, powerful drama and a stellar cast.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.