I Carried This

Hannah Playhouse, Cnr Courtenay Place & Cambridge Terrace, Wellington

05/06/2024 - 15/06/2024

Production Details

Written by Nicola Pauling, using interviews conducted with ten women who choose to remain anonymous
Directed by Jacqueline Coats

Produced under Greenlight NZ

I Carried This is a documentary theatre show, illuminating adoption experiences of New Zealand women in the 1950s-60s, breathing new life into stories held onto for decades. The show will debut at Wellington’s Hannah Playhouse this June and features five distilled, real-life stories from women interviewed by writer Nicola Pauling. Directed by Jacqueline Coats, I Carried This is performed by three actresses as an ensemble—one from each ‘season’ of their life.

An emotionally impactful experience from start to finish, the show follows five strains of one incredible history in Aotearoa. Together, the three-woman ensemble, simply referred to as Young, Middle and Wise, weave together multiple entrancing vignettes; one woman tries to fathom why a tender reunion with her adopted son has released waves of rage she never thought capable of, another is forced to reveal to her husband a secret she was always told he should never know about.

With a captivating show design from renowned local designer, Lucas Neal, and breathtaking musical compositions from Matthew Hutton, the technical elements work to complement three utterly compelling performances from the show’s actresses—Hilary Norris (The Coven on Grey Street), Nicola Pauling (She Danced on a Friday), and Mycah Keall (Mokomoko).

Hannah Playhouse
5-16th June, 2024
7:30pm Thurs-Sat.
6pm Tues-Wed,
3pm Sun
$40 General, $36 Senior, $32 Group 6+, $20 Student
Book online at https://www.eventfinda.co.nz/2024/i-carried-this/wellington

'Wise' played by Hilary Norris
'Middle' played by Nicola Pauling
'Young' played by Mycah Keall

Stage Management by Nicholas Batey
Set & Lighting Design by Lucas Neal
Sound Design by Matthew Hutton
Marketing Design & Publicity by India Worsnop
Photography by Scott Maxim

Verbatim , Theatre ,

60 minutes

A crucial story told with a gentle hand and straight-down-the-barrel honesty

Review by Gin Mabey 06th Jun 2024

I sit in the Hannah Playhouse wondering, how many people in this room right now were, and still are, affected by the shameful and horrific piece of history we are about to explore? 

I Carried This, written by Nicola Pauling (who also performs the ‘middle’ representation of the five characters) and directed by Jacqueline Coats, is a documentary play about unmarried women in the 50s and 60s who were shunned from their homes to give birth and have their babies adopted out. The play explores five true stories of five women who were ‘sent away’ in their teens or early twenties.

The play honours the stories of the women beautifully, and focuses almost solely on their experiences, before, during and after. I love how the playwright only touches upon the male influence when it is necessary. It isn’t about the relationship, the sex, the man, it is about the extremely visceral and emotional experience of the women who carried those babies, those burdens, those utter injustices. Another writer may have leaned more into the social scandal of the topic but Nicola has kept it close to where it should be: the ongoing experience of the women.

Each story is told through three different eras of the woman’s life: the young, the middle, and the wise. The Wise is played with immense gravitas and sensitivity by Hilary Norris. The middle is played with a rich feisty and sharp observance by Nicola Pauling, and the Young is played with heartbreaking innocence and raw grief by Mycah Keall. I love how the three phases of each character’s life are together on stage most of the time, holding, supporting, remembering. It makes me think of the stories we all have, tragic or not, and how we relate to our past, present, and future selves. We have a whole cast inside of us and how we interact with that cast can vary.

There were a few moments where I think the production could be pared back, as the actresses and the stories are more than enough. For example, I find the disembodied voices of the doctors and fathers to be unnecessary. I think it would be more effective to remain solely with the women on stage in those moments. An unseen and unheard father or doctor would heighten the sense of powerlessness and isolation.

I would have loved to have seen some more variation in pace, and perhaps some moments left to linger longer. Specifically, the moments when the grown children meet their birth mothers, or when a grown-up mother searches for her son on a sports field. However, opening night can sometimes mean a bit more of a pacy run before the season really gets settled, so that could be a factor.

I leave the theatre feeling completely, utterly enraged. I don’t have children myself, by choice, because it is my choice. What’s more, I’m not judged or shamed for whatever sexual choices I may make. The women mere decades ago were not granted that freedom and power. They were shamed and ridiculed and made to feel like they had committed the worst sins, and that’s even before their babies were taken from them. Women were expected to behave in a certain way and if they didn’t? Well, let’s see how much pain and trauma we can inflict upon them – that is how it seems to me, from my 2024 eyes.

This is a crucial story to be told, a part of our history we must uncover, and I Carried This does it with both a gentle hand and straight-down-the-barrel honesty.


Waka Attewell June 10th, 2024

The truth is emotional and the detail despairing. It tears at your heart, but in the next moment it doesn’t. Now it is beautiful and healing and you feel uplifted to the ceiling; the woman three down from me was sobbing out loud but is now smiling and holding herself in an embrace. There is a sharing of catharsis at play here. Waka Attewell

John Smythe June 8th, 2024

Read Sarah Catherall's article in The Post here: https://www.thepost.co.nz/culture/350300997/play-tackles-how-mothers-endured-forced-adoption

Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council