Guest Blog: Documental Theatre

“I did fuck it up, but my kids never had a day off, they were always in clean clothes and up in time for school.” -“Emma”

Score is a jukebox musical about Heroin, friendship and child removal, unlikely though that sounds.

It’s the story of best mates, Hannah and Kirsty, who grow up singing together. That’s how they connect, even when they want to throttle each other.

The script was inspired by the surprisingly hopeful and accessible testimonies of parents in Bournemouth drugs treatment. It was terrifically exciting material for a writer to work with.

The stories were gathered by Dr Mel Hughes of Bournemouth University, to remind people that, inevitably, most addicts are first and foremost parents.

We wanted to make a cracking play that took a long lens view on a chronically relapsing condition. So the play is an unbroken conversation, whip-smart banter and furious argument in equal measure, which jumps the audience forward through twenty years.

Hannah and Kirsty are found in nativity plays, labour rooms, child contact centres and choir classes. Their much-loved kids, Sammy and Jade, are never onstage, but they are the stakes. We always feel them in the room.

And what about the jukebox bit? The music was a reaction to the unspoken frustration in the testimonies. How do you articulate the feeling that you’re going to lose your child and it’s your own fault?  Weird though it sounds, music seemed the most authentic way. Credit to director, Stephanie Kempson for really innovative musical instincts, and audience members have described the actors as having “bad ass voices”.

We hope the play will get people thinking about a subject that sometimes feels too hard to contemplate. As many as 70% of child removal cases are to do with an alcohol or drug problem, but thinking is getting more progressive, in some boroughs anyway. While some local authorities are cutting drugs services, others realise it is cheaper to support a family through treatment, with a nanny if necessary, than to stick a child in care. Supernanny meets Trainspotting – now that’s a good idea for a play…

I’ll leave you with an extract from one of the parent stories, which we have permission to share. Imagine “Emma”, a bubbly woman in her late twenties. She’s complaining that she’s put on weight since she got clean…

“I didn’t really have any issues growing up, I used to get drunk on a Friday and Saturday night but that was about it.

I had my first child at 18. My boyfriend had a good job, I was working too and we got the opportunity to move into a council property. After we moved we met someone who pushed on us, a neighbour. On a Saturday night we would take a bit of coke to break up the routine of the week. It was him who introduced us to crack. He suggested we try smoking the coke instead of snorting and then use gear in between using to mellow us back down.  My boyfriends’ parents were addicts and he couldn’t believe this had happened to us. We stopped using so we wouldn’t develop habits, we could feel ourselves getting groggy (I was aged around 22). A few weeks later we started using again.

In 2006 I was given a methadone script while pregnant with my next child. I had no trouble with Social Services and gave birth and breast fed and the baby was not ill at all. The social worker and prescribing service were all happy, this was in 2007.

I had quite a few breaks. We were Giro junkies, use when the giro arrived, once or twice a week until the money ran out.

In 2011, my neighbours had come round. We were staying up late and the neighbour accused us of being noisy. They said to me “you are a disgrace of a mother”, it all kicked off and we spent the night in the cells. Social Services wanted the kids to go to my Mum’s for the weekend, it ended up being for 10 months under a voluntary care order. I went to court to get them back but after another incident they were removed again.

The kids are now with a foster carer and doing really well. I do have contact with them and so does my ex. I am clean of Heroin and off Methadone too.

My intention is to go back to court and get the order discharged. Experts say get a year of clean time. A year for me to prove it. I realise I needed treatment and accept I needed to change.

My kids are good and polite and not naughty, that’s not the foster carer, that’s me, but I don’t want praise for it. A teacher invited me to an open day. Social services, or anyone else, never tells me anything. The foster carer gets the school report before me, I have to ask for a copy. If I didn’t care I’d understand but I do care and they know I do.

I do accept responsibility, I did fuck it up, but my kids never had a day off school, they were always in clean clothes and were up in time for school.  I protected them from what we were doing; they never saw anything but now I think my eldest was aware of what we were up to.  I’d have enough to stay well in the day and have a bigger ‘one’ in the evening when the kids were in bed.

I want to put my kids to bed and wake them up in the morning, be responsible and make sure they are safe. My eldest wrote in my mother’s day card “you’re the best mum in the world and really deserve the best day”.  She knows I haven’t gone for good.”

After a sell-out run at the Southbank Centre, catch Score at CPT from Tue 10 – Sat 14 Nov. FIND OUT MORE