Giving Up Marty, Vault Festival

Karen Bartholomew’s play is a look at identity looks at all sides; the adopted, the adopters and those that gave up their child. The focus is Joel (Danny Hetherington) , a happy young man living with his mother Kit (Alexis Leighton) whose world is turned upside down when his birth family attempt to make contact when he turns 18.

Giving Up Marty considers all parties, not just the families but the society and authority around adoption, represented by Femi (Ugo Nelson) a young social worker who attempts to guide Joel and his birth family Martha (Dorothy Lawrence), his mother who was pressured into adoption due to her violent marriage and his sister Melissa (Natasha Atkinson) a painful reminder of what Joel’s life could have been if he remained with them and was raised as Marty.

As a production it feels at times very busy yet also very slow, there is so much to cram into an hour that storylines, like the death of a son for Martha or the illness of her surviving son, that feel rushed but the dialogue can be slow and unnecessary. I felt the ending was rather rushed, focusing on Joel’s move abroad rather than how he changed as a person following the revelations.

I also felt making Martha unlikable meant it was hard for the audience to understand her motives; whilst it was presented that she was looking for Marty to replace the son she had raised there wasn’t any particular motherly instinct, this wasn’t a woman looking to raise a baby but to even up the numbers of her birth family again. Natasha Atkinson as Melissa is an interesting character; bright, a mother and someone who wants to get to know Joel but I felt her scenes were too short and underdeveloped. The outcome of upbringing lacked a satisfactory outcome. The two older characters, Martha and Kit felt more developed and were well acted but Annie Sutton’s direction felt unable to commit to this as a serious piece, Bartholomew’s writing did show some humour but some lines were not delivered with the timing needed; often feeling rushed.

It has a lot of potential as production with a realistic look at adoption; the decision to depict it in 1990 was an interesting choice; acknowledging that the stigma around adoption has changed in 40+ years.

Giving up Marty is on until 12 March

It continues on tour

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