There or Here is produced by the same team behind the hit 2013 show Yellow Face. This production tells the story of an American couple’s struggle to have a child. Robyn, a children’s fiction illustrator, and her partner Ajay, a business consultant, are determined to have a child of their own. Robyn has recently been diagnosed with cancer, however, complicating matters – and so they settle on the surrogacy option.
Early on in the play we watch them fly out to India – where the service is offered relatively inexpensively – with a canister containing Robyn’s frozen eggs. Upon arrival they meet Rajit and Neera – a young couple who are in it purely for the money, and who ultimately swindle Robyn and Ajay. Bizarrely Ajay then steals a child and the problem is solved.
Undoubtedly outsourced surrogacy is a complex and important subject to explore, but the play fails to do so in a way that’s in any way elucidating. It is peculiar that the people who are being exploited – their very bodies becoming the purchased property of affluent westerners – are recast as the villains of the piece, and that they have little to say for themselves.
Dramatically Maisel’s play is also pretty flawed. The opening scene basically tells us everything we need to know about the sequence of events leading to Robyn and Ajay’s arrival in India, and then we go back in time – with each scene being painstakingly presented to us without really developing much beyond what we’d already understood. Then the second half is full of wild plot developments that there’s no time to explore. Stealing a baby, for example.
It’s also brimming with unappetising racial stereotypes, and offers a skin deep appraisal of the wider socio economic and cultural factors that might help to account for the situation being presented to us.
Ursula Mohan, Manish Gandhi and Rakhee Thakrar offer some light relief, and are engaging as performers. But they can’t really redeem a production that fails to interrogate the subject at its core.