Glue is a gripping true story by award-winning poet, playwright and performer Louise Wallwein whose ground-breaking work allows us to reflect on our own sense of familial identity. Her acclaimed one-woman show, Glue, will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 4 Drama on 30th September 2017 in advance of a much-anticipated run at Ovalhouse this October.
We spoke to Louise to find out more about Glue.
Your play, Glue, is coming to Ovalhouse, what can you tell us about it?
Glue is about the first two meetings with my mother, after a 12-year search. The first meeting happened privately and the second meeting happened in a very public way. I am exploring how my fractured childhood of adoption and growing up in care shaped my identity.
This is one of the realest stories a human can share. This was roughly the way the advert went when I was 12, in care, and looking for a foster family.
Hello my name is Louise, I like reading, writing and dogs and climbing trees. And knock knock jokes.
I like the countryside.
I like babies.
I would like to go horse riding, canoeing and acting.
This picture is of me in Wales, I’m sat on a castle wall.
I like castles.
Rewind to 1969, I was put up for adoption by my birth mother. I was placed for adoption with a family in Wythenshawe, Manchester. Fast forward to the age of nine and my family imploded and I left home. I never found a permanent family and spent the next ten years or so in care – in around thirteen different placements. I was jettisoned from the system and found a home of sorts in the world of theatre. I wrote my first play for Contact Theatre aged 17 and then spent many years making other stories.
It’s a true story, but what inspired you to turn it in to a play?
I was asked by Liz O’Neill to write a monologue to question how we make theatre for families for the Family Arts Campaign. Inviting me showed the outsider’s point of view. I’ve always been an outsider and this makes my view of the world quite a privileged vantage point. I can see you all in society with your families.
Basically Liz asked me this question at a really great time – I had come back from three deep months in Winnipeg during the polar vortex. I’d had three months to really reflect on my story and Liz caught me at the right time, and then the audience went nuts for it. I then got arts council funding to make it into a full length show and then write the book. The BBC then commissioned it for radio and the rest is going to make history. I want to change the world.
Before Ovalhouse it will be broadcast live on the radio, how does that make you feel?
I am totally delighted with the process of transferring it to Radio Drama. I work with the most skilled and dedicated makers of radio on the planet – BBC Radio Drama North. I am delighted because I intend to change society with this artistic response and that is what the BBC is for, to inform and entertain as the Public Service Broadcaster.
Susan Roberts is directing, how did she become involved?
I first worked with Sue in 2007 – she produced my first play for BBC Radio 3, The Wire. This had all come about because the BBC Writersroom had been developing me for a while and I was one of the Royal Court 50 writers. Kate Rowland saw me perform a speech which they had provoked me to write and out came Dirty White Girl. The play looked at one working class girl’s struggle against neglect and grooming. Sue produced this and it was the best working relationship I had had. Then Liz O’Neill got in touch with her and asked her to direct the Family Arts piece where Sue and I were reunited and we have worked together to get Glue where it is today. She has gently guided, edited and challenged me all the way through this process. It is equally her baby. She is adopted too and this has united us to create this extraordinary piece of work.
How does music play a part in the production?
When I wrote the first monologue Sue immodestly heard music and soundscape. So we brought Jaydev (Mistry) on board. I’d done gigs with Jaydev in the past and we like working with each other – we all started chipping ideas in. Jaydev is a genius actually and feels the work from a writer, what comes out is often other worldly. We are also a bit punky so we rock that music in parts.
Why is it important to you this story gets told?
My story demonstrates something very universal and fundamental about our society. When I was born I became a child of the state, the state fucked up in allowing me to be adopted by a family that was grieving the loss of a child, whom I was replacement for. The state handed me over and didn’t see me again until I was nine. I was battered, tortured and raped – in the words of the social worker who came and saved my life, I was a destroyed child. The state did that.
The response so far from audiences has been overwhelmingly positive. Wherever I perform it, there are always care leavers and mothers who have had their children taken away or put up for adoption. They always have questions and I hope this play helps to answer a few of them. Its feels like a beautiful completion of a journey artistically. There I was, 30 years ago, writing a play about a girl searching for her mother, and here I am now about to walk out on stage to tell you about meeting my mother.
Glue will be playing at Ovalhouse (52-54 Kennington Oval, London SE11 5SW) from Tuesday 3rd to Saturday 7th October 2017. You can purchase tickets here.