Giving Up Martythrows us into the heart wrenching complexities of adoption in this poignant piece by Karen Bartholomew. An ensemble piece set on a stark stage consisting in the main of chairs, washing lines and the five actors themselves. Oh! And the file. The adoption file. I know how successful this play is in bringing to air the issues surrounding adoption because come the final time that file is pulled out, a wave of nausea comes upon me.
Joel (born Marty) wasn’t looking for his birth parents. He knew he was adopted but hadn’t searched them out. Rather, his birth mother and biological sister have appealed to the system to find and reach out to him. In explaining how he came to be adopted, Kit, his adoptive Mum explains to Joel that some people make mistakes. Joel is appalled, “They made a mistake!?” And thus the play continues to brilliantly highlight the mistrust and stupefying responses of all involved in the adoption process.
There is love present of course but it’s buried in a heady mix of bureaucracy and loss; the birth mother’s loss, a sister who lost her brother, Joel’s loss of blood relatives. There is also a sense of not quite fitting in, or as he puts it, “it’s like putting on a coat that doesn’t quite fit’, and the desire for family from the adopting mother. All these aspects of adoption aren’t easily resolved, and indeed the play doesn’t try to do so. Instead it successfully sheds light on it all.
And then there is that file. When Martha is appealing to Femi, the adoption agency employee, to find her son, he’s holding it as he presents her with reasons not to pursue this, leading her to cry “Are you trying to depress me?” Later, Joel has opportunity to read it and it turns out to be depressing reading. It’s cold, there’s no heart in it. His adoptive mother called him a gift from God and Joel declares that’s what his file SHOULD have read, “Marty, a gift from God.”
Across the breadth of the play all five cast members present their case directly to the audience, which make for some of the show’s most moving and poignant moments. Your heart is drawn to each of them, even Femi, as he declares “We are protective not just of the children but the conventions around them.” But it’s ultimately Marty who best describes the predicament as “like being born in all directions.”Giving Up Marty is a play well worth seeing. Purposeful and heart wrenching on a subject that will continue to be with us.
Written by: Karen Bartholomew
Directed by: Annie Sutton
Produced by: Karen Batholomew and Motormouse Productions
Booking Link: https://vaultfestival.com/whats-on/giving-up-marty/
Booking Until: 12 March, 2020