When author and pianist Anna Goldsworthy penned her funny and revealing motherhood memoir Welcome to Your New Life, she had no idea it would one day be turned into a play.
But, 10 years later, State Theatre Company South Australia has transformed this candid and moving story about pregnancy, childbirth and the jolt of new parenthood into a live production, complete with music.
The live show was the brainchild of the company’s artistic director, Mitchell Butel, who surprised Goldsworthy when he first raised the idea.
“The book is so relentlessly interior that when Mitchell Butel approached me about a version for the stage, I couldn’t imagine how it would work,” she says.
“But I trusted his instincts, and it made the transition more readily than I anticipated. The framing device – in which the entire book is written in second person, addressed to the baby – translates neatly to the stage, as the audience becomes the ‘baby’.
“I’ve realised, too, through adapting it, that writing this book was largely a musical process, which lends itself to theatrical treatment.”
State Theatre will close its 2023 season with Welcome to Your New Life, starring Erin James as Goldsworthy, alongside Kathryn Adams and Matt Cook, with original music composed by Alan John.
In a first for the company, there will also be a special “Babes in Arms” baby-friendly performance of the show, allowing parents to attend with their babies, with modified lights and sound and no lock-outs.
Goldsworthy, who is director of the Elder Conservatorium of Music at the University of Adelaide, began to think about writing Welcome to Your New Life in the months after giving birth to her first child, Reuben, now 14.
At the time, she had just completed her memoir Piano Lessons but felt compelled to continue writing, not just to document her experiences, but as a balance to the all-absorbing nature and oblivion of being a new mother.
“Afterwards, as motherhood threatened to commandeer my entire being, I realised that writing was really important for me, partly as a placeholder for self. But as I cast around for subjects to write about, I realised there was only one subject for me at this time, and this was my little boy,” Goldsworthy says.
“The book is partly about that obesssionality: even as I sought to transcend it through writing, the writing took me right back to it.
“More broadly, I was interested in writing about this hugely significant life event. Over the months of my pregnancy, I struggled to find accounts in literature of what giving birth was really like, physically. I kept a journal all throughout my pregnancy and also in the immediate aftermath of delivery – this was a hugely useful resource before the in-built amnesia kicked in.
“On the one hand it looks like a very little story – a woman gives birth. On the other hand, this is the biggest story of them all, and prompts existential questions about the nature of life and death. It’s also a story about anxiety.”
Goldsworthy attended several workshops during the production process of the play and says she’s had positive feedback and suggestions from a range of “actors and visionaries”, including Butel, director Shannon Rush, and dramaturg Tim Overton.
“I attended the first couple of days of rehearsal and popped my head in sporadically but I didn’t want to be that heavy-breathing, over-invested writer who cramps everyone’s style, so have tried to keep a bit of distance,” she says.
Director Rush says Goldsworthy’s script is “extraordinary”.
“It’s unflinchingly honest and raw, and Anna is so brave in writing her experience into a book and a play,” she says. “When I first read the script, I identified so strongly with it, being a mother myself. With some beautiful songs and a fabulous cast, we are going to deliver a gorgeous and moving production.”
So, how did it feel for Goldsworthy to see an actor up on stage playing out her very personal story?
“I think Erin is brilliant and I was so impressed with her from her first read,” she says. “But it’s also confronting to witness your own neuroses in this externalised form.
“It’s also been a great pleasure working on this production with this brilliant creative team: motherhood has never felt less lonely.”
Goldsworthy, who is also mother to 11-year-old son Otto, says she’d love to see more stories about pregnancy and motherhood brought to the stage instead of these topics being sidelined as “niche”.
“Even though, as my brother said when it [Welcome to Your New Life] was written, they concern anyone who has ever had a baby or been one,” she says.
“I hope audiences will come away with some renewed appreciation of this thing called life.”
State Theatre Company SA will present Welcome to Your New Life at the Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, from November 10-25.
This article is republished from InReview under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.
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