Digital review: Should I Swallow (National Women’s Theatre Festival)

Emmalias has created, written, and directed a new 70-minute digital play, Should I Swallow, which is now streaming as part of the 8th annual National Women’s Theatre Festival.

What if, at some unspecified point in the future, food was deemed not necessary to a woman’s digestive or reproductive system but replaced by nutrients via IV instead? What issues would arise from this (body image, eating disorder, ‘normality’, consent).

Should I Swallow looks at eating, coertion, sex and reproduction, and the influence of outside forces, including medical advances as Darling (Lisette Velandia) and her best friend Honey (Juliana Scheding) navigate life since ‘The Discovery’.

Presented in a semi-staged format, this has the potential to be a powerful piece about the suppression of women, the twisting of education (“anyone can say anything in a book”), and gender idealogy.

It’s perfotmed well enough, but I struggled a bit with the sound at times, so I possibly missed some of the nuance in the script (captions, please!). It is curious that the kitchen scenes are script readings, but other scenes are not.

Screencap for Should I Swallow

Mom (Abi Hood) claims to be supportive of her daughter but sees the science simply as an excuse to label women as child-bearers carrying the “precious gift of life.” It’s a very retrograde view in what presents itself as a very modern world.

Men are peripheral and “different,” although clearly if reproduction is so central to life, they are pretty crucial if conception hasn’t moved to an IV process, too.

Should I Swallow sets out an alternate world for women, their health, biology, and safety, and will definitely leave you with questions about autonomy, experimentation, and mutilation.

Should I Swallow is streaming now in the National Women’s Theatre Festival, which continues into July.