[Stories for Every Body]
Originally booked for a debut season in 2021, Stories About My Body is one of the first rescheduled performances in the indoor space and heralds a welcome return to the Basement’s post-lockdown programming.
Writer and performer Morgana O’Reilly, known for her role in the Emmy awarding winning short-form series INSiDE and Naomi Canning (Neighbours), is fresh from a stint of Stories About My Body at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival – and it shows. Her performance is tight yet invigorated, no doubt elevated by humourous beats, expressions and inflections developed during the Melbourne run.
Arriving on stage as a (no spoiler!) whirlwind to fits of laughter, the tone is set for the hour-long production’s switch-up: from hilarity to humanity, and back again. A delightful use of New Zealand sign language not only feels wholesome and welcoming but allows Morgana’s body to speak for itself.
Through the helpful addition of projector screen and home video/photo footage, Morgana introduces us to her younger body. The imagery adds to her storytelling but Morgana’s word painting is poetic and vivid, and these excerpts stand alone without reliance on this shift of audience focus.
We are swept from the late 90’s and Morgana’s teenage body image woes, and into her reproductive system – with a side step through the ovaries and the anatomically interesting place where we learn sperm can reside for up to seven days. It is this kind of ‘act-out’ that shows the full range of Morgana’s skills as a performer, switching persona as she attempts to welcome interlopers into the space, describing it as a kind of 70s style shag-pad where they can comfortably wait for the egg to descend.
From head to pinky toe, Morgana regales us with anecdotes about her body and her unique – yet universal – battle for self-acceptance. She creates so many moments of empathy, its hard to pick just one. The show notes prepare us for nudity, childbirth and a reference to foot-fetishes in New York City and its this international section which comes alive given the judgement-free exploration: Morgana retells how she went from the steel seat of a bus stop, and walked her feet into the lap of a gentleman paying for services.
The final, visceral recounting is of the two days when Morgana gave birth to her children. Beautiful details, peppered with humour, accompany home video footage that leaves the audience in awe.
Morgana captivates the crowd from all walks of life – while acknowledging her own privilege as a cis-woman with stories unique to her.
Giving birth to this show no doubt felt like a long time coming, but it is well worth the wait. A terrific triumph.