Combining creative activism and cabaret, All Aboard! at Termination Station offers up a glimpse into the mental and medical mayhem that excruciates those who decide to have abortion care. Lilly Burton, an executive committee member of Abortion Rights UK, gives her absolute all over an hour of comedy, music, and stuff that straddles theatre and performance art. With bracing tenacity, perfectly timed comedic finesse, and unrelenting energy, Burton lands a slam-dunk variety performance. She measures taking a stand against the political attack on reproductive freedom and entertaining her punters with a near-perfect balance, and with her unhinged approach gleefully takes on a topic that is often lathered in taboo.
Unapologetically strident, Burton is quick to tell us that despite the title we should expect as many railway related gags as are in Trainspotting. In her glitzy, bright pink conductor outfit, and with whistle at her hip, we’re whisked off on a journey around the world of reproductive healthcare – its’ trials, tribulations, and eventual liberations. Don’t be fooled, however, by the high-concept facade. This is very much Lilly’s story, and the entire thing quite regularly takes a deeply introspective turn at breakneck speed. In fact, some moments within the piece see us literally dive inside an imagined space within Lilly’s body. The cabaret layer lacquered on top of this autobiographical tale keeps the audience engaged, even though what we’re seeing is something far more intimate than it first appears.
Lilly maintains a patchwork of cultural references throughout as a way of pinning the power structures surrounding reproductive healthcare to something that is tangible for all audience members – those who have had personal experiences with it and those who have not. For example, halfway through she starts having a conversation with a fake moustached-orange inhabiting her womb, and the pair undertake a hefty back-and-forth about landlords, letting agents, and evictions, that eventually sees Lilly visit an ‘Egg-state Agent’ (yes, we’re on that level of silly, and it’s glorious) to discuss her options. Scenes like this run in tandem with songs and dance numbers that tackle the often-unspoken parts of abortion healthcare, from Lilly presenting a pregnancy test that she has actually used and smoking it like a cigarette, up to hula-hooping and throwing a menagerie of small animal toys all across the floor.
While all of it is bathed in this deeply silly lens, the result is surprisingly very empowering. Lilly rips open out of bounds discussions with whimsy and style, and leaves a really open air of discussion on the table. The seeming misadventure that leads to unwanted pregnancies is tossed to the side to remind those who can get pregnant that they deserve control over their bodies, they deserve not to feel shame about it, and that their right to choose is valid and welcome in spaces of discussion.
As the piece drifts towards a close that overwhelming sense of personhood that Lilly seeks to establish overtakes the glitzy cabaret, perhaps in a way that is a little too stark at first. She discusses an incident which sees her hospitalised, and then the subsequent political actions she has undertaken campaigning for reproductive rights. While deeply pertinent to the message of the piece, I can’t help but feel Lilly drops the act of the cabaret-style opening a little too soon to achieve that goal of reminding people that abortions are about personhood rather than politics. It would be great to see more of a clear narrative arc to lean toward this. Even typing that out I feel a little bit picky, but Lilly opens up such a unique space for conversation about how we can tell our stories to impact, celebrate, and affect people’s rights to reproductive healthcare.
Against the backdrop of Roe vs. Wade in the United States, this is probably one of the most important shows you can see at EdFringe this year. With spree confidence, unbridled entertainment value, and a deep sense of purpose – Lilly delivers a cabaret hour that holds back no punches, and holds back none of its’ hilarious punchlines either.
Recommended Drink: All Aboard! at Termination Station is best paired with a Last Train cocktail – coffee schnapps that pack a punch.
Catch All Aboard! at Termination Station at Pleasance Courtyard – Bunker One until August 28th (not the 14th or 21st) at 15:30. Tickets are available through the EdFringe Box Office.