Laura Wyatt O’Keeffe is an Irish award nominated performer, writer and facilitator. She makes work with, for and about women and young audiences.
For the last five years, Laura has performed, written and co-produced her own shows in the U.K. Ireland and Malta. Laura’s last show, ‘Jean, Where Memories Live’ was a promenade piece that started under a planetarium’s star filled sky and ended on the rooftop under the stars.
Vessel is coming to Underbelly what can you tell us about the show?
Vessel is a show about women’s bodies, choice and love.
My character, Maia is a pregnant twenty-four year old who works at a reception in a refugee support centre. She meets David, a journalist at the funeral of Astur, a refugee girl who has committed suicide. It’s pre-referendum Ireland and abortion is still illegal, therefore women and couples are travelling in silence to access abortion care in the UK. But Maia doesn’t go quietly, she tweets about her unwanted pregnancy and it goes viral. The next half hour details Maia trying to negotiate the public attention whilst making a very personal choice
What inspired you to write Vessel?
Vessel was inspired by the Repeal the 8th campaign. I grew up in an Ireland where we did not talk about abortion, we did not talk about choice. Abortion was something that was talked about in hushed tones behind closed doors and it was always something that the person would regret. But something started to change around 2010, people started talking, marching, campaigning. People were unafraid to speak out.
Vessel started as a play about abortion but it has become a play about choice.
How did you research the subject of Vessel?
Whenever I make a show I ask a lot of questions. I bury myself in research. Normally when I start writing I’m angry about something, I was angry about the lack of female bodily autonomy and I was lost – I didn’t know how to feel about it. So, I kept asking questions and kept researching and eventually I reached a point where I knew what I needed to write. My research for this show started in 2013 when I interviewed Mara Clarke of Abortion Support Network and with people who oppose legalised abortion. And that’s how I wrote the show, in the middle of those opinions, the for and against.
Once the research was done, I went into a room with artists and offered up the script. And slowly through feedback from these workshops, pages of ideas and questions arrived. Then it was my job to write the story that needed to be told.
What’s the one thing about Vessel that makes it different from all the rest?
Vessel is about women and the choices we make. So much of the theatre I see about women acknowledges and details female struggle and that’s it. Vessel is about exploring what happens after that struggle, what happens to the female character when she has freedom, when she has choice, when she is empowered? As a theatre maker I’m excited by the possibility of female focused narratives not the retelling of female suffering. For women to keep moving forward socially and artistically we’ve got to start telling and listening to stories of female empowerment.
How does it feel to be at Underbelly?
Every time I go to the Fringe I go to Underbelly so I’m incredibly proud to be part of their line-up.
Why should people come see Vessel?
Vessel’s audience will be challenged, their ideas and opinions about bodily autonomy and theatre will be challenged, they will walk out with questions about the play and questions about their own opinions.
Vessel is at Underbelly Bristo Sqaure 2nd – 27th August (not 13th)