A Level Drama students reduce audience to tears with performance of Bye Bye Baby
“I’M SCARED MATRON. I’M SCARED I’M GOING TO LOVE IT”
On Tuesday 2 April, as Lower Sixth Drama and Theatre students, we performed our devised piece, ‘Bye Bye Baby’ to an audience unprepared for the heartbreak they were about to experience.
“Bye Bye Baby” revolves around the lives of unmarried mothers in the 1960s, ostracised from society and considered ‘fallen women’. Often the women, or more commonly teenagers close to our own age group, were sent away to a mother and baby home in order to conceal their pregnancy and shield their family and themselves from shame – this is the point at which our play starts. We followed the experience of three young women, each with a different background and road that led them to the doorstep, through an interesting mixture of humour and trauma, naturalism and fantasy. The play explores how camaraderie and hope can be found in one of the most desperate situations.
Using Amanda Whittington’s play ‘Be My Baby’ as our initial stimulus, we began to devise this original piece of theatre in the style of our chosen theatre practitioner, Shared Experience. Shared Experience is a British touring company who produce movement-based theatre focusing on the feelings that drive characters and projecting them on stage. Polly Teale, their creative director, states that they are committed to “giving form to the hidden world of emotion and imagination”, an approach that we carried through in our piece enabling us to be incredibly imaginative when undertaking the devising process.
“Giving form to the hidden world of emotion and imagination” - Shared Experience
As part of the devising process, we carried out extensive research, not only uncovering the historical facts surrounding mother and baby homes in the 1960s, but also explored the social, cultural and political context, all of which influenced our drama. From true stories about the biology of bunny rabbits used to teach sexual education, to the condemning approach of religious orders to unmarried mothers - all was key to our understanding of the era and the construction of our characters. A major turning point within the development was talking to a lady who had been to the mother and baby home on Bateman street called ‘Ely Diocesan Maternity Home’. She gave us a first-hand account of life in these homes, describing the monotonous routines of the days and enabling us to get a sense of the everlasting pain of separation from your baby.
Live theatre also had a huge impact on our practical work. Having been inspired by the use of Plastic Theatre within Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire”, we decided to design a versatile set which could mimic the disintegration of the women’s mental state through a deterioration of the set itself. This built upon our knowledge of our practitioner, Shared Experience, by delving into the characters psyche, dissecting their feelings of isolation and desolation, projecting them on stage and enabling the audience to truly empathise.
At the end of the performance, some members of the audience were emotionally moved, some to tears, especially those in the audience who were parents, who understood the emotional bond that is instantaneously created between mother and baby, and how heart breaking it would be to lose that bond. One member of the audience commented, “I was very impressed that three young women who have yet to experience the aspects of womanhood the play was concerned with had managed to evoke them so vividly and movingly.”
We were also pleased that our expressionistic style had an impact on the audience showing “how ‘public morality’ brings about personal tragedy” and appreciated our use of music to create atmosphere. “One piece that stood out was the twisted fairground music that came behind and built as the rape story grew – it helped grab your spine and twist it a little to make you feel even more uncomfortable.”
“The conclusion [was my favourite part], where the gauze became the babies in swaddling clothes and was then opened to reveal nothing. It was a powerful expression of loss”
Ms Esther Roberts, Head of Drama, said: "The girls worked incredibly hard on creating this original piece of drama in the style of the theatre company 'Shared Experience'. The examination unit requires them to become theatre makers; researching, devising, script writing and staging the piece, considering the form, concept and key messages that they want to communicate to their audience. They took to the dramatic style extremely quickly, and impressed Mr Abery and me with their creative and expressionistic approach, which resulted in a really moving piece of theatre that had me in tears every time I watched it. I couldn’t be more proud of them all.”
By Molly, Isobel and Abbi
You can see a full gallery of images from the piece here.
Learn more about the creative and performing arts at St Mary's