Full Consent To Speak On My Behalf refers to a statutory line used by professionals, enabling foster carers to speak on behalf of children in the care system. The performance involves a cast of four, performing quick fire narrations from children who've survived this. The piece, scripted by Serafina Cusack, analyses popular representations of children in care, like Harry Potter and Jacqueline Wilson's fictional character Tracy Beaker. They explore how realistic these fictional experiences of care are, and note the ‘lack of ugly stuff’ in them.
An enlightening expose of a system which is failing our children and young people
This stark portrayal of the care system in the UK has been formed by Good Wolf People Theatre via a series of workshops, utilising verbatim experiences of young people in care. This performance has everything – dynamic ensemble; a capella; synchronised movements; high emotion; pragmatic reality; and even a bit of neuroscience on attachment theory. The range of mechanisms used in the performance means this emotive topic never feels sluggish. The a cappella nods to pop songs heighten the mood at just the right moments, and the actors utilise the few stage accoutrements to great effect. An example of this is when they discuss the unhealthy end to relationships – “one day you’re supported, and then nothing”, and there’s a harsh bang of a box on the floor, resonating around the room and deep into our hearts.
The performance oozes emotion, eloquent descriptors which help the audience empathise with the experiences childen are having in the care system. And director John Handscombe has employed a minimal set, which serves to amplify the voices being spoken as the most important thing in the room. There’s no need for fussy distractions – all our attentions are on the words and the dynamic physicality of the cast. A few boxes, a few books and use of sock puppets change the tempo when appropriate. It’s also notable that the cast are all dressed in the same attire – another nod to feeling like “just another brick in the wall”, a disposable cog in a system which often fails to value individuality.
Care experienced young people are one of the most marginalised and oppressed groups in our country, and in this performance many examples of their every day experiences demonstrate this. The black bin liners they’re given to transport their belongings in - the association with refuse and rubbish landing thickly and morosely. The horrors of multiple placement changes; the lack of information and preparation for being in care and leaving care; the feeling of being “an illegal immigrant in your own home and country,” that sticks with the person long after their care experience is over. The insecure attachments that continue to impact on every relationship they have going forward. It’s not all negative though, and there's several mentions of good experiences in the care system - as well as techniques and affirmations used by young people to help them survive from day to day.
This is an enlightening expose of a system which is failing our children and young people. It’s exquisitely written, credibly acted, and leaves us feeling sadly schooled on the inner workings of the care system in the UK. It’s a fantastic all rounder, and well worth supporting.