The woefully overlooked gynaecological condition that is endometriosis is laid bare in the hard-hitting Blue & Pip. Written and performed by those with lived experience, the emotion is achingly real and authentic.
Equally impressive is playwright Helena Fox’s naturalistic portrayal of a queer relationship which isn’t the main focus. Instead, Blue (Yaz O’Mahoney) and Pip (Holly Mallett) dream of starting their own family, placing their cash savings in a jar called the ‘kiddy kitty’. There’s a calmness and gentleness to their romance – emphasised by the smooth sound of waves playing at times in the background – which is heartwarming to witness, but Blue’s undiagnosed endometriosis risks putting a strain on their marriage.
When we connect with their relationship, it’s easier for audience members to understand Blue’s frustration when there’s a lack of understanding of endometriosis from medical professionals, extortionate treatment costs and a significant amount of waiting (in pain, of course) – even when we will never truly appreciate the extent of their chronic pain. And in such scenarios, it can be easy for stories about disability to prompt a more pitying or overly sympathetic response from those watching, but Blue & Pip succeeds in making the case for more research, funding and support for those with the condition. We soon learn it’s far better than empty words and platitudes we witness in Aria Baker’s Dr Stone and Blue’s mother – both of whom recommend fresh air as one of the treatments for unbearable chronic pain. Yes, really.
Mallett is brilliant as the strong-willed and loving Pip, who regularly brings back flowers to Blue when they see each other. She buys them from Dani (Frederick Upton) and his shop at regular intervals in the play, in awkward, bubbly and slightly flirtatious conversations which offer a simple breakaway from the heavier subject matter. Though while all other secondary characters have a bit more depth and necessity to them, Dani only feels like a friend to provide the occasional banknote (there’s a reason for that) and ask how Blue is doing. If there’s plans to expand the production in the future, a subplot focussing on Dani and his connection to Pip could offer up a new avenue in which to explore endometriosis and the impact it can have on both an individual and their loved ones. With that being said, Pip’s helplessness is raw and sensitive, but again, does well not to stray into anything synthetic. It’s anguish out of love, not for any self-centred purpose, and that’s true for many people caring for a chronically ill person.
Though of course, a story about a delicate subject matter is not completely devoid of the more light-hearted stuff. As mentioned previously, there are the bubbly conversations between Dani and Pip, but the loveliest bit of storytelling comes from a reference to Mr Bean’s Holiday – first mentioned when there’s a sense between the titular characters that Blue’s illness means they have to spend time away from the sea they love so much. Its conclusion, which I won’t spoil, comes full circle on Mr Bean, and it’s simply wonderful.
Blue and Pip is now playing at theSpace on North Bridge, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2022, until 27 August.
Production Images: Helena Fox.