Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

She is Not Herself

Veronica J Dewan
Kali Theatre Company
Tristan Bates Theatre

Maggie O’Brien and Amina Zia Credit: Robert Workman
Maggie O’Brien and Amina Zia Credit: Robert Workman
Amina Zia Credit: Robert Workman

The social stress on the importance of the family we are born into can generate all kinds of anxieties in people who have been adopted.

There are inevitably questions about why birth parents are not around, and this can often lead to feelings of grief and failure. It can chip away at a person’s self worth. The issue becomes even more complicated when you are Asian living in Britain where the racism you will experience can make you feel an unwanted outsider.

The Kali Theatre Company production of Veronica J Dewan’s gentle optimistic play She is Not Herself explores these issues through a meeting in London between a young Asian woman Anouk (Amina Zia) and her white birth mother Jules (Maggie O’Brien).

Anouk is ten weeks pregnant and it is this that is perhaps the driving force to find out about her birth parents. It has taken her a while to locate Jules because of the unhelpful response of a priest in Ireland where her mother’s family lived.

Jules arrives at this first meeting carrying her suitcase to Anouk’s room crowded with boxes she is unpacking. Jules is wealthy and initially keen to strengthen the contact by offering to help unpack the boxes, suggesting she stay with Anouk, and proposing her daughter comes and joins her for a time in France.

Anouk is cautious, preferring to get on with practical tasks that include finding a hotel for her mother. However they soon begin tentatively to discuss the events that led to the adoption. This is especially important to Anouk who feels she was abandoned and has made the shocking discovery that she was almost aborted in Brighton.

Jules begins to describe the circumstances of her first encounter with Anouk’s father, an Indian student who rescued her bag caught in the door of a London tube. More reluctantly, she tries to explain the circumstances of the adoption in the more socially repressive climate for unmarried mothers in the 1950s. In turn, Anouk talks about the ways being an adopted child has distorted her childhood.

The naturalistic, believable dialogue directed by Helena Bell sensitively draws us into this thoughtful performance that doesn’t dodge the pain of the encounter but convinces us that this meeting was a first step in a process of coming to terms with a difficult past. 

She is Not Herself by Veronica J Dewan appears as part of Kali double bill with Stateless by Subika Anwar

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna