12/10/2010 - 16/10/2010
In November 1975, at the age of 20, Verity Taylor was charged by the Police with damaging a chair by fire – value six pounds – in a locked ward of a mental hospital where she was a patient. She was remanded in custody to Holloway Prison for a period of three months.
She was subsequently tried at Canterbury Crown Court and in February 1976 an order was made for her admission to a maximum security hospital.
On February the 24th, 1976, Verity Taylor was admitted to Broadmoor, from where she may not be discharged or transferred elsewhere without the permission of the Home Secretary.
Based on a true story, Olwen Wymark’s ‘Find Me’ is the astounding account of what happened to a young girl who was born differently and the lengths her family went to in order to help her. To save her. To love her. To find her.
12 – 16 October 2010
Tickets: Adults $20 / Students $15
available through iTICKET www.iticket.co.nz
or 09 361 1000 and door sales available.
Chelsea McEwan Millar
Lighting and sound designer/technician: Mike Clarkin
Set design Carmel Steff
Lost, adrift and unsure
Review by Lillian Richards 13th Oct 2010
Human animals; we’re a strange breed. So overly complicated that even we, the most dynamic and intelligent organisms on our planet, cannot figure ourselves out.
I started thinking about this last night after I’d seen Find Me and, in searching for a quote to express in words more venerable than mine pretty much exactly that sentiment, I began reading over various aphorisms surrounding humankind. And there I discovered the strangest thing about us, revealed in single lines of astounding observation: we know that there is something wrong with us yet we do not know how to heal ourselves.
Oscar Wilde put it this way: “I sometimes think that God in creating man somewhat overestimated His ability.” Which is to go back to the proverb, “Can god create a stone so heavy even he cannot lift it?” or, if I were to make my point more directly and struggle back to the play at hand: “Can a human be so unlike others that they do not seem human at all?”
Written in the late 1970’s about the real life struggle of the Taylor family in coping with their mentally disturbed daughter Verity, Find Me is deeply anchored in the zeitgeist of that time. Electric shock treatment is used, a pervasive lack of transparency is present in the medical system, a serious lack of infrastructure exists for the mentally ill and the god complex of medical professionals isn’t yet being challenged.
This production is directed by Carmel Steff and stars a rotating cast of 9 actors (including Steff), each of whom play various roles in the vignettes the play uses to retell the literal chronology of Verity’s life. From a 9 year old girl who was a bit of a handful to the 11 year old who first gets incarcerated in hospital, each of the 5 female actors take turns at imbuing Verity with her various levels of anxiety, melodrama, sexual effusion and introverted calm.
The female cast also forms the shifting face of Verity’s mother, Carla Brereton’s performance here is notable as she plays mother with a natural charm that perfectly evokes the warmth of a matriarch under pressure. Similarly notable is Lauren Porteous, who creates a maniacal whirlwind of unease as she energetically enacts the more destructive moments of Verity’s life with a childlike yet insidiously clever abandon.
Simon Ward does a wonderful job of being Verity’s gentle, faithfully stalwart and sympathetic father and Matt MacDougall plays the shifting cast of municipal medics clearly and with some wisdom.
Carmel Steff’s direction of all her diverse characters begins as clunky and works its way towards a near fluidity as the piece moves forward. The multitude of cast and props, of different scenes and epochs, is a daunting task but I couldn’t help shake the feeling that there was a more elegant way to achieve the transitions. As it stands there is a pervasive awkwardness as actors move about and the action, the thread, gets haltingly suspended.
The acting in general is pithy though the attempts at British accents vary from naturalised to nonexistent and Find Me is about one act too long. Even with such length, the point of the play appears to miss itself or, ironically, is not interested in finding itself.
As I began by implying, Find Me is peripherally about the complex and sometimes impenetrable human mind, but to be relevant beyond its narrow cultural and generational origins it needs to be more about the strange arrangement of human nature. Find Me only retells events, it doesn’t, as a piece of writing, take any responsibility for suggesting the causes, for exploring the various arguments for dis-ease in our children, in our society, in our very beings.
This unplumbed topic got me thinking about a fantastic book I’d read called We Need To Talk About Kevin; it was a big seller a few years back, you may have read it? What got me thinking about Kevin instead of Verity was that Kevin, as a character, was created in order to investigate the arguments around nature and nurture as causal to our mental health. Basically said: is evil inherent or is it learnt? Maybe it was because Verity was real that Wymark shied away from blowing her apart, from truly delving into every aspect of her, from imagining the inside of her head and positing some kind of suggestions as to why so many of us are too tricky to understand for even the god who made us.
It’s possible that the entire play was created as an edifice to house anger at the state mental health system in Britain in the 1970s and in a theatre in Britain in the 1970s this may have caused a powerful resonance.
For whatever reason and despite a couple of slight insights – one in particular has the 5 Verity’s lined up in anticipation of a swimming gala speaking to their Olympic dreams and desires to be validated for their ability – we’re only ever let in so far.
Find Me left me lost, adrift, and unsure as to the purpose of this production in our current context.
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