Medicine’s Monstrous Daughters
Touring nationally Spring 2020
How much of our humanity do we lose in search of the elusive cure?
Do we hold the hearse in search of the lovely bones and sell our souls for science?
Photograph: Julie McNamara / Watts Gallery
Photo description: Four plaster casts of female hands rest in an eerily lit museum display cabinet
Two powerful stories woven together across time to expose unpalatable truths on the treatment of people we still deem ‘unworthy of life’.
Two women trapped inside the mental health system, two centuries apart, give us two vivid and vital takes on how we have cast away our disabled daughters for medicine’s magical gains.
Julie McNamara’s Monstrous Daughters is based on a 30-minutes play, Hold the Hearse!, originally commissioned by the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries’ Exceptional and Extraordinary Project (University of Leicester), which toured to packed houses in museum spaces, receiving outstanding responses and engaging wide richly diverse audiences.
Now developed as part of a double bill, Monstrous Daughters is an eerie and humorous journey following the plight of Mad Mary and the young sluice boy, Walter Riddle – a haunting story from two characters who evade ‘the specimen collectors’, bringing the grisly reality of body snatching to light and inviting audiences to question our ethics in collecting and attitudes towards difference.
The extraordinary debut play by Omikemi, Medicine, investigates contemporary experiences of the mental health system by women of African heritage – unravelling a hidden story of unethical medical experimentation and exploitation.
The play draws upon the story of Elsie Lacks, the second daughter of the eternal Henrietta Lacks, whose cells are the source of the HeLa cell line used in medical research. Henrietta’s cells were removed from her body without consent in the 1950s and continue to be one of the most important cell lines used in medical research today.
Written by Julie McNamara and Omikemi.
Directed by Penelope Freeman.
Penelope Freeman, Director
Since graduating as an actor from LAMDA, Penelope has pursued a lifelong and varied career in theatre across all genres including two seasons at the Royal Shakespeare Company and television appearances for BBC and ITV. She is passionate about keeping live theatre alive and since the demise of the repertory system has committed to working for and supporting vibrant companies such as Vital Xposure with whom she has a long association. She has collaborated and performed in their productions of The Knitting Circle, The Disappearance of Dorothy Lawrence, the award winning films Blue Pen and Voices From The Knitting Circle. She is delighted therefore to return once again to direct Medicine’s Monstrous Daughters.
Julie McNamara, Writer
Julie McNamara is a nationally and internationally renowned artist and activist in Disability Arts and Artistic Director of Vital Xposure, one of the UK’s leading disability-led theatre companies. Driven by social justice, Julie has a life-long preoccupation with disavowed voices on the political periphery. She is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter, recently recipient of the Best Documentary Over 30 Minutes and Best of the Festival Award at Picture This… Film Festival, Calgary, Canada, 2018; Unlimited Award 2014; Southbank Show Diversity Award ITV 2010; ITV & DaDa Writers 2009; Peabody Award for documentary 2000. She has a substantial theatre production history both in the UK and on the international stage, and has published widely in poetry anthologies and non-fiction discourses on Disability and Mental Health. In January 2019, Julie has been awarded a Miegunyah Distinguished Visiting Fellow from the University of Melbourne, Victoria. Julie McNamara also directed The Butch Monologues which in Australia between January – March 2019, following its sell out tours across the UK in 2015 and 2017.
Omikemi is a writer and poet based in London. Her work has been published in numerous publications including, Soundings: Journal of Politics and Culture, Ambit, Rialto and Bloodaxe’s
Ten: Poets of the New Generation. Her debut pamphlet poetry collection, If I talked everything my eyes saw, was shortlisted for the 2017 Michael Marks Award. Omkemi’s work is driven by lived experience and an interest in memory practices. Her first exploration of this theme was Nine Night, an immersive ritual theatre piece exploring ancestry which featured as part of The Yard Theatre’s NOW 15 festival. She has also collaborated with performance maker Rajni Shah to create Song for the 2016 What Remains performance art festival. Her work continues to explore memory, particularly somatic memories, how these are transferred across generations and the appearance of these processes in the field of mental health.
“… Moments of magical realisim… mesmerising musicality, offer us the possibility of divine redemption, which is of course poetry”, Pascale Petit