The VAULT Festival is coming to town! From January 24th to March 18th, over three hundred new shows explode across a festival of festivals in their Waterloo home. With new venues, new bars, new food and plenty of surprises, VAULT 2018 is the biggest, fairest platform in London for artists to present innovative, daring work. Writer Mark Wilson and Director Sarah Meadows, both adopted themselves, have worked together on the multi award-winning production YOU for a number of years and here discuss why and how the play was written; what it means both to them, and to the audiences it has so deeply affected.
Mark Wilson: Looking back now I see it, just perhaps, as having come from a need to hear my own mother, hear her story; a need to conjure her as a way of managing the loss I realised I was feeling. It would have been so obvious for me to have told the adopted person’s story. That was my experience after all. But from the start it was her story that started to be told – her voice.
I think, too, there was an overwhelming need to, well, forgive or self-accept as a way of me finally being able to walk alongside all the hopeless exhausting rage of rejection rather than forever battling against it. So, I created everyone in Kathleen’s story as being able to leave the stage with the audience’s forgiveness – we really do understand. It’s why there’s no blame; no ‘goodies and baddies’; why there’s no-one there for the audience to dislike or hate, no-one who does anything terribly wrong or wicked. It’s simply peopled by characters trying to do their best which, I think, is what most of us, knowingly or otherwise, wake up each morning intending to do.
So, what’s left but to understand and to forgive? And by the remarkable magic that is story-telling, however briefly, we, the audience, come to do the hardest thing of all: to forgive, to accept ourselves. I think that that’s why this work has the impact it has. By the end of each performance we have found ourselves sat in a room surrounded by people who have experienced a sense of self-forgiveness, of acceptance, who have reached a state of seeing themselves as ‘good enough’.
So, yes, it’s about adoption, definitely, and for me it’s also much more.
Sarah Meadows: It’s rare as an adopted person to be around, let alone work with another adopted person, at least in my experience. This play gives both Mark & I as adoptees and theatre makers the opportunity to communicate some of the complex reality of adoption narratives.
We want this to reach the adoption community but to also start a conversation universally about how we publicly understand and talk about adoption. There is still a lot of shame, secrecy and misunderstanding surrounding adoption and we hope that this play will lift some of that weight and allow people to talk more openly and with
less judgement and with more compassion and honesty.
Both Mark and I have very different adoption stories, so of course what we show is only a small corner of experience, but we do I think find the essence of the shared feelings those who have been involved in adoption experience. I wanted to make a production that we could pick up and take out into the community – to reach the people who it could speak to most. Therefore the staging is simple and in traverse with a focus on storytelling as a form, to avoid the trappings of a straight drama and to encourage conversation rather than distance.
The play, we hope, beyond being an enjoyable show, evokes a vital public discussion. More and more people are adopting and fostering so it’s important we talk about it. Families are formed and split in many ways, so looking at,
understanding and perhaps forgiving feels like a conversation worth having. We are working hard to reach the adoption community as much as a general audience and to create public conversation, such as this as much as possible and have been working with social services and adoption groups and hope to continue this. Vault is now the perfect platform for us to launch a tour of the production and hopefully get the conversation on a national level.
YOU is running at VAULT Festival from the 14th to the 18th of February at 19:45. Tickets and more information can be found here.