2 Jun 2024

Play captures adoption experiences of birth mothers in NZ

From Culture 101, 12:30 pm on 2 June 2024
Jacqueline Coats

Jacqueline Coats Photo: Supplied

A documentary theatre piece is giving the stage to stories held onto for decades. The adoption experiences of birth mothers in the 1950s and 1960s in New Zealand are being heard in I Carried This at the Hannah Playhouse in Pōneke Wellington this June. 

The show captures the experiences of women who were given very little choice. It was an era when unmarried mothers regularly had to relinquish their babies - a process shrouded in secrecy. More than 100,000 young women during that period were either sent away by their families or forced to work as unpaid houseworkers, and then sent back home after the birth and adoption, to forget what had happened. 

Written by Nicola Pauling and directed by Jacqueline Coats, five real-life stories have been gathered from interviews and will be performed by three actors in an ensemble - one from each ‘season’ of their lives. The three actors are referred to as Young, Middle and Wise and vignettes include one woman who tries to understand why a tender reunion with her adopted son has released feelings of rage, while in another, a woman is forced to reveal a secret to her husband.

Director Jacqueline Coats spoke to Culture 101’s Perlina Lau.