Playwright’s story ‘needs to be told’

Pip May's play reveals some startling memories from researching her family tree. (Justin Flynn)

By Justin Flynn

Barwon Heads mum of four Pip May made a shocking discovery while researching her family tree that led to the writing of her debut play.

The play, Meeting My Mother, is part of the Queenscliffe Literary Festival which is being held on the last three weekends of May.

Meeting My Mother is a one-act play about an accidental discovery of a mother’s secret and will be dramatised by acclaimed actress Jenny Seedsman at the festival.

It is based on a true story of Pip’s discovery that her mother had given birth in 1958 as a single woman, before she met her father. The baby was taken immediately for an adoption organised by a doctor.

“The way I made the discovery was through doing Ancestry DNA, a personal hobby,” Pip, who writes under the name Pip Kainey, said.

“My half-brother had done the same thing and the system matched us up. To say it was a shock is an understatement and while I understand why she kept her secret, I wish things could have been different.”

Pip wrote the play as part of an honours degree at Deakin university. The thesis talked about representing personal trauma in life writing and on the stage.

The play also shows other examples of single pregnancies, and their ‘solution’ through the decades, and so also refers to pregnancy termination and the open-adoption practices of the 1990s.

“Many people these days do not understand why my mother, who was 21 years old at the time and had a job as a nurse, wouldn’t have just kept the baby, which shows how much the attitudes to that situation have changed over the decades,” Pip said.

“I am not saying single mothers live without stigma these days, they do. But back then, there were no choices to be made.

“The unwed mothers were likely hidden and then had their baby taken by force, which might be physical force or coercion. The lack of choice means these adoptions of this era were forced.

“The fathers of the time were also without choice, and a great many oblivious to the existence of their child.”

Pip’s story deals mainly with the memories of different conversations she had with her mother and the new meaning that had been laid over them.

“It is very personal but I feel strongly that this is just one story that needs to be told,” she said.

“Through story-telling, healing can begin for so many people affected by the forced adoption practices of the past.

“There has been an apology by Australia’s former prime minister, Julia Gillard, but a lot more work is to be done.”

Pip’s mother died just three months after she made the discovery of her half-brother.

“I am so appreciative that I had the opportunity to talk with her about it,” she said.

The play, directed by Nic Velissaris, will be performed this Sunday at Point Lonsdale Primary School hall at 4pm.

The Queenscliffe Literary Festival will see an influx of writers, readers, and thinkers with 24 live events featuring nearly 50 participants.

The program covers history, young adult fiction, Australian literature, nature, comedy, dance, crime fiction, the media, politics and more.

Go to queenscliffeliteraryfestival.com.au for more information and bookings.