REVIEW: YOU (Vaults Festival) ★★★★★

YOU, is a play by BBC Radio 4 writer Mark Wilson about adoption and the ripples one child can send through families of strangers. This award-winning play is presented by Longsite Theatre as part of Vaults Festival at Waterloo. It was first performed at the Brighton Fringe Festival in 2015 where it won the Brighton Festival Award for Theatre, the Argus Angel Award for Artistic Excellence and Fringe Review Outstanding Theatre Award.

Kathleen waits to meet the boy she gave up for adoption when she was fifteen. Thirty years later, that baby boy has grown into the man she is about to meet, at his request. “You still have the clothes, don’t you; the ones they let you keep? Still in that drawer in the upstairs room, and the piece of faded blue card with his birth-weight and the time – blue for a boy.”

As she waits for him to arrive, she recalls the events and people involved in her story of teenage pregnancy leading to giving up her baby to a childless couple. Through real and imagined conversations, Kathryn O’Reilly and Stephen Myott-Meadows become, in turn, Kathleen as a teenager and the boy from the army who gets her pregnant; Kathleen’s parents; the couple who adopt her baby; the older Kathleen and her grown up son. Both actors skilfully switch between characters and keep the story moving for an hour that passes quickly as the audience becomes engrossed in the tale.

The play brings a clarity to the complicated situation of giving up a child for adoption; presenting the raw emotions, feelings of overwhelming love, failure, rejection, disappointment and forgiveness as well as the heartbreak.

Alongside the obvious pain of a young mother giving up her child, Wilson explores the impact on the wider family; especially touching is the role played by Kathleen’s father, trying to support his daughter while upset at the loss of a grandson he will never know. He also includes the tale of the childless couple who adopt the child, the tragedies that lead them there and the sadness of an adoptive mother who knows she will never have the same bond with the child that his birth mother always will.

Both Wilson and the Director, Sarah Meadows, are adopted and this shows through in the convincing narratives. YOU speaks from the heart and opens up a conversation about the complex reality of adoption.

Reviewed by Rhiannon Evans


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