What does it mean to be a young person and in care? Writer Serafina Cusack tries to answer this, plus many other care-related questions, with a touching piece of verbatim theatre. Drawing from interviews with those involved with different aspects of the care system, she puts together a collage of opinions, memories and fictional representations. This is then embodied on stage by a very talented cast of young actors (Raagni Sharma, Amy Lynch, Deshaye Gayle and Douglas Clarke-Wood).
In stark contrast with the rest of the play, the opening scene shows a family home on Christmas day, with three children excitedly telling their mother about an overnight visit from Santa Claus. This suddenly switches to the recollections of a former child in care, now an adult, who talks about the sense of abandonment felt when she was taken off the scheme at the age of sixteen.
Harry Potter is mentioned as an example of an ill-treated child in care and compared to the story of a young boy who had to sleep on the landing for years, because the house didn’t have a room for him. Sock puppets are used to re-enact the episode of Sesame Street where Elmo and friends are joined by a foster child who initially feels unwelcome before realising that everyone loves him. The reality turns out to be different, with many examples of youths that go from home to home before settling in. There is the infamous black bags practice, by which black bin liners are used to move children’s belongings during transfers.
The rose-tinted adventures of Tracy Beaker, arguably the most famous fictional character to be in care, clash with many anecdotes about foster homes run by unsuitable people, who lack both preparation and humanity.
It does end on a more positive note, with many of those involved recognising that the system has significantly improved since the 1970s, with an extended age in care and a more considerate approach. However, foster parents receiving full consent to speak on behalf of a minor entitle them to attend meetings and curate the interests of their protegees, but also deprives them a platform to discuss their needs.
With over 90,000 looked-after children registered in Britain in 2018, this is an urgent and poorly understood issue. By allowing them to speak for themselves, Serafina Cusack does them justice in a meaningful and educational play.
Author: Serafina Cusack
Director: John Handscombe
Producer: Good Wolf People
Box Office: +44 (0)131 226 0000
Booking Link: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/full-consent-to-speak-on-my-behalf
Booking Until: 24 August 2019