TEN years ago, Sarah Bebe Holmes was asked to donate her eggs to help her friend get pregnant. The performer-choreographer did not hesitate. “I said to her: ‘If there’s anyone in the world I would give my eggs to, it would be you,’” she recounts from her Edinburgh base. The pair first met when Bebe Holmes was a teenager and the friend was in her 30s.

“We’ve known each other for 20 years and have always been very close,” Bebe Holmes says. “She married quite late in life and struggled with fertility issues. I gave a wholehearted ‘yes’ back then, not knowing the trials and tribulations that came along with that.”

That was in 2008, two years after Bebe Holmes set up Paper Doll Militia, an innovative aerial theatre company, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with fellow performer Rain Anya. The company’s first show, Rara Avis, was a response to the bravado of mainstream circus at the time.

“It was all about performers being superhuman in their feats of strength and acrobatic capabilities, whereas we were interested in showing vulnerability of character and getting across a human story,” says Bebe Holmes.

Both she and Anya had “stumbled” into circus arts, she explains.

“It was a radical change in direction for me, as I have a philosophy and literature background, whereas Rain has a background in theatre,” she says. “All have narrative and guts behind them, so when we came to this artform that was acrobatic, we wanted to apply real storylines to it. We’ve continued in that vein ever since.”

Egg, Bebe Holmes’s new one-woman show, is an autobiographical tale of her “massive voyage of discovery” since donating her eggs. Set to music by Hungarian bassist and composer Balázs Hermann, the piece explores through aerial choreography ideas of the politics of fertility, medical invasiveness and the personal effects of hormones on the body.

Egg is also intended as a way to address our preconceptions around the idea of family. Bebe Holmes’s donation led to her friend giving birth to a boy, now aged 10. Initially she began work on the piece in response to people’s reactions to the circumstances of his birth.

“It started when he was a toddler, and I’d be explaining my relationship with my friend, and what we’d done,” Bebe Holmes says. “Everyone I told was like: ‘You did what?’ They were shocked. But everyone knows about people who donate their eggs. It happens more often anonymously, and a lot of women chose not to share that information with others.”

She adds: “It’s something which is generally socially accepted but not socially discussed. There’s a missing link about fertility issues and women being able to have the support to talk about it really openly and honestly.”

When Bebe Holmes and her friend went through the process in the US, the former found her personal privacy and bodily biology subject to scrutiny. Needing assistance, she says, incurs a different set of rules to those who don’t.

“I’m a healthy, intelligent individual but that didn’t matter in the eyes of the medical community,” she says. “I had to be screened for all kinds of things. Our privacy as a family was really invaded and my personal identity as ‘viable’ or not was scarred.

“If this were an anonymous donor situation, I might not have been good enough because of some of my high-risk teen life choices. It really brings up issues around who is thought of as genetically viable. Whereas others can get pregnant any time they want, the moment you need any kind of assistance, there’s an element of judgement, like same-sex couples who want to adopt and single parents. A single mum who wants to adopt goes through the wringer.”

She continues: “These are people who want to care for another human. Why do they get so harshly judged? We think of ourselves as so progressive as a society, but actually we’re a little bit delayed on this, I think.”

Following a few work-in-progress performances earlier this year, Egg tours to Inverness this month before settling back in Bebe Holmes’s adopted home town for an extensive run at the Edinburgh Fringe in August.

Despite the complex, challenging reality Egg explores, the work is not all “grimness and darkness”, the performer says.

“There is definitely a lot of joy about the piece. As well as the judgement, the medical invasiveness, the cold legal aspect and the sterile, clinical nature of it, there is definitely a lot of joy about it. You get to see the love that is required to make a positive family unit.”

June 14, 7.30pm, Eden Court, Inverness, £13, £8.50 concs. www.eden-court.co.uk

August 1 and 3 (previews, £5), 4 and 5, 7 to 12, 14 to 19 and 21 to 26, 6.15pm, £12.50, £8 concs, Demonstration Room, Summerhall, Edinburgh. Tel: 0131 560 1580 or Edinburgh Fringe box office: 0131 226 0026. www.summerhall.co.uk www.tickets.edfringe.com www.paperdollmilitia.com