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Avalanche: A story of infertility’s highs and lows

Maxine Peake and Director Anne-Louise Sarks. Photo by Richard Davenport
Maxine Peake and Director Anne-Louise Sarks. Photo by Richard Davenport

On 27th April 2019, Avalanche: A Love Story premiered at the Barbican theatre produced in conjunction with Fertility Fest and Sydney Theatre Company.  It describes one woman’s struggle with infertility and the emotional toll of IVF.

Avalanche is an IVF memoir by Julia Leigh an award-winning Australian novelist, film director and screenwriter. Her second novel Disquiet won the Encore award in 2009 and her debut film Sleeping Beauty was selected for the Canne Film Festival in 2011.

Adapted for the stage by the author, Avalanche describes her own journey with infertility. After re-connecting and marrying an early love in her late thirties, Julia and her husband decide to have a child together.  After trying naturally unsuccessfully they attended a fertility clinic to discuss the possibility of IVF. 

Avalanche explores the emotional toll of infertility personally and on your relationship as well as the mental and physical battle of IVF. For a large number of people their story finishes with a positive outcome and a beautiful baby. However, for many women and couples, their journey reaches an end without their much-longed for child.  Avalanche reflects the ups and downs of fertility treatment and the reality that it does not work every time. 

The one woman show stars theatre, TV and film actress Maxine Peake famous for her roles in Black Mirror, Funny Cow, Shameless, Silk and Three Girls. Maxine recently opened up about her own struggles with infertility after undergoing three rounds of IVF on the NHS and suffering two miscarriages.  She told the Guardian that “It is so difficult for people for whom IVF has not been positive to find stories that do not end well.  I wish I had read Avalanche when I was going through IVF.”

Avalanche is the centre-piece of Fertility Fest 2019, the first arts festival dedicated to fertility, modern families and the science of making babies. Taking place at the Barbican between 23rd April to 12th May 2019, Director Jessica Hepburn describes the festival as “like walking in to a hug.” and a place “where everyone understands and cares about what you’re going through.”

After going through 11 unsuccessful rounds of IVF over ten years, Jessica found that the psychological effects of infertility were the most difficult part of treatment. Her advice to others is to get emotional support where you can from counsellors, fertility coaches, support groups, friends and family and online forums. Life can also be fulfilling without children and Jessica has since swam the channel, created Fertility Fest and plans to climb Everest in 2020! Maxine also discussed her life after IVF with the Guardian saying “When things don’t work out you move on. You channel it into something else. I want to say to women: it isn’t over.”

If you are struggling with infertility or trying to decide whether to continue with treatment, please see the LWC’s support hub for more information.  Our monthly support group is also available to LWC patients and non-patients to meet others who are in a similar situation and to provide peer to peer support.

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