I Carried This - Reviewed by Tanya Piejus | Regional News Connecting Wellington

I Carried This

Written by: Nicola Pauling

Directed by: Jacqueline Coats

Hannah Playhouse, 5th Jun 2024

Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus

Verbatim or documentary theatre, in which the dialogue is drawn directly from interviews with real people, is a powerful medium for telling unknown or forgotten stories. I Carried This illuminates the harsh adoption processes of the 1950s and 60s and their lifelong impact on the young, unmarried mothers who were often coerced to give up their babies. Interviews with several women have been distilled into five dramatic accounts of the grief, loss, anger, and guilt felt by this generation of New Zealand mothers for whom the ripple effects of their past are still in motion.

These women’s stories are told on a spare stage of white cloth hangings with a shallow set of steps and two moveable set pieces, a bar with two stools and a bassinet. These are employed beautifully to inform the movements of three accomplished actors, Wise (Hilary Norris), Middle (playwright Nicola Pauling), and Young (Mycah Keall), representing the seasons of the women’s lives. The lines are split between the three, who work expertly and seamlessly together to form a coherent and unified whole.

The actors not only voice the women themselves but also the men in their lives and the judgemental parents who sent their daughters away to farms or homes for unmarried mothers. The voices of the adoption agencies are represented by a recorded male voice (Regan Taylor). This creative device cleverly divorces the cold institutional tones of authority from the warm passions of these very real women.

As well as internalising the heart-rending loss of their babies, all the women experience some form of contact with their grown-up children. These stories are in some ways more poignant than the beginnings of their journeys as they grapple with expectations met or variously challenged.

I Carried This is a compelling and affecting record of a period in time that seems almost unbelievable now and of the women whose lives continue to be buffeted by the waves of past choices and their consequences.

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