At the heart of Louise Wallwein’s revelatory drama “Glue” is the question of Care.
Care leavers are 5 times more likely to self-harm or attempt suicide, are less likely to seek help, are many times more likely to experience mental health difficulties, and beyond that, there is no safety net. They are very likely to experience homelessness, being jobless and support, government or otherwise, is fragile.
At pivotal moments in Louise Wallwein’s multi-layered drama, a drama about abandonment, about the search for family and about both the strengths and weaknesses of the self, the dialogue is deliberately stalled to drive home the point that it’s more than just a personal story.
It’s a one woman show and through the hour the audience navigates, a mother forced to offer her child to care, the trauma of adoption, the difficulties of constructing one’s personality when the only anchor is being abandoned, the search for family, real family, the birth family.
“From the wreckage of my boat, I found other people also shipwrecked. I tried to build a life. Sometimes I would borrow spare parts from these people. Sometimes sticking other people’s memories to my own.”
The idea of the boat, of being strewn through difficult currents, abandoned to the whim of the seas, widens the narrative further. This story could match as much the plight of the refugee children as it does the child growing up in care.
Navigate then, the role of the Catholic Church and state, by necessity, the creation of surrogate and substitute families and finally, the meeting. The meeting between the main character and her birth mother, and the shattering of the glue which held Wallwein’s life together.
“There I was, tipped to be one to watch after doing a show on the wings of an aeroplane a year earlier. 1999, my life was moving in the right direction; a career, a new home and a new girlfriend.”
But this evaporates in the wake of the discovery of, and the meeting with, the birth mother. The house where the meeting takes place has, “the same institutional colours, the same institutional chairs and the same institutional air“, as the houses she grew up in.
Tension emerges as she realises, “I have to be the adult here.” She has to be the one to brave her family’s ‘prison of lies’.
Close to the end pf the performance, Wallwein states, “I lose myself entirely. There is no grand reunion, there is no happy ending”, but this isn’t a “misery memoir”; this dramatization provides uplift. Despite abandonment, despite the difficulties of care, fostering, survival is possible, “everything you need is within you.”
It is possible to adapt, it is possible to build a platform, strong enough to withstand the difficulties which accompany the weaknesses of state care or fostered family life.
The performance, mixing monologue, performance poetry, dialogue, and interloping factual information was impressive, riveting. The accompanying music by Jaydev Mistry, haunting.
The Outburst Queer Arts Festival is to be commended for putting on this production. This story isn’t about sexuality, the sexuality of the writer and the performer, in this case the same person, is of little consequence. The story offers universal elements along with pointed commentary about the poor quality of state based care and government support for those in care and care leavers.
“Glue” is being written up for broadcast on BBC Radio 4. The Monthly will provide a link to the broadcast as soon as it becomes available.