‘Be My Baby’ written by Amanda Whittington, and is set in the North in 1964, during a time when moral values and discipline were still an integral part of British society. Furthermore, the repression of women in everyday life was still existent and any evidence of blasphemy, disobedience or rebellion was strongly disapproved of. ‘Be My Baby’ is set in St Saviours, a mother and baby home, where young, pregnant, unmarried girls were sent to have their babies in seclusion, because many families would risk their reputation and status, if it became known that a family member had became pregnant outside of marriage.
The purpose for mother and baby homes, which were established in the 1960’s, was for young mothers to give birth discretely and the baby be adopted immediately with no complication or embarrassment to the families’ or girls’. The basic plot outline consists of the journey and tribulations of each of the inmates at St Saviours, and how they cope with the inevitable shame of their actions, as well as the realisation that they will not be allowed to keep the baby.
It essentially focuses of Mary Adams, who is forcibly sent to home by her mother, who is intent on maintaining her dignity and status.
Mary is from a middle class background and has been sent to St Saviours by her mother. Mary is fairly subdued and timid because she is accustomed to obeying orders and acting responsibly. She appears to be extremely nai??ve and ignorant of what childbirth involves.
Another key character is Matron who is in charge of the establishment and whilst behaving as a stern disciplinarian, she also appears to genuinely care for the girls and she nurtures them to the best of her ability. Other girls in the home include Dolores who is seventeen, quiet, shy and knows more about pregnancy than the others.
Queenie who is twenty years old and has had one baby before, her partner is in prison and she enjoys singing. Also character is Norma who is aged twenty, very serious and quite unhappy living at St Saviours. The character of Mary develops as she begins feel more comfortable with the situation and befriend the other girls. Mary appears very uneducated in the procedure of giving birth, “Painful? “, “Uterus? “, “Does it make a mess? ” As the play proceeds Mary develops more character and becomes more confident. Queenie is loud, vivacious and more glamorous than the other characters.
Queenie is portrayed as down to earth and calm. Examples of this are when Mary is trying to run away and thinks of ways to get out of the home. Mary’s comments are “We’re in the attic” and “In your condition? Queenie is also very supportive, concerned, kind and caring, but somewhat secretive. She conceals the fact that she has already had a baby and it seems she doesn’t like talking about her past. Examples of this are, “Has it gone? ” “I’ll run a bath. ” and, “Cos I’ve had one alright, I’ve had one! ” During the play, we observe a relationship developing between the characters of Mary and Queenie.
Mary is from a family who are financially comfortable, she works in a bank and she seems fairly intelligent, although, immature. Whereas Queenie, is from a working class background and seems more mature, experienced and responsible in comparison to Mary. Scene ten particularly begins to portray and develop the Character of Queenie as a darker and perhaps more vulnerable person that originally perceived. The Past of Queenie is revealed to the audience, who discover that Queenie has already had one baby, even earlier in life.
The other character in the scene is Matron who is very strict and seems insensitive; however, at the end of scene ten she begins demonstrate more compassion towards Queenie. During the lessons we discussed the various themes in the play, using explorative strategies and research methods. In small groups we used ‘hotseating’, and each person acted a roll from ‘Be my Baby’ and was interviewed as this character. This method was extremely useful in enabling us to explore the characters and the play in more detail and gain an insight into the situation of a young, pregnant woman in the 1960s.
The key themes which were examined during ‘hotseating’ were the class system, status, disapproving society, innocent and nai??ve teenagers, difference between modern times and the time of the play and automatic adoption of the baby. ‘Hotseating’ allowed us not only to investigate the themes, but also to understand and sympathies with the characters in more depth. We also participated in a class discussion about the themes, which involved us doing a group brainstorm and debating about the key topics and ideas presented throughout ‘Be my baby’. Many people had discovered similar themes while taking part in ‘hotseating’.
The brainstorm allowed us to make notes on other peoples theories about the play and also provided us with a brief summary of the events in the play. In my opinion, the most significant points in the play are related to the extreme class and hierarchy system which still existed a relatively short time ago. Another technique we used to identify the themes was ‘distilling the essence’ which involved each group selecting what we professed to be the most imperative moments in the play. We chose three scenes, which included Mary’s arrival at the home, Norma going into labour and the reaction from Queenie when Mary leaves.
We condensed these scenes into a montage which included freeze frames and thought tracking. I found this process extremely useful in summarising the play and also watching other people’s views of the integral scenes. I also found the variation in the observations people made about the play was very interesting, and some people responded by choosing the obvious, already discussed themes, while others used more obscure, but still relevant choices. Another technique I used was ‘role on the wall’ where I created spider diagrams for each character and explored their backgrounds and general information.
This is an extremely valuable piece of work to have, because it has allowed me to remember the function of each character in the story and also examine the less prominent, but equally interesting characters, for example, Norma and Dolores. It has also provided me with a reference page, including the background details of each roll, including, age, personality, pregnancy status and previous experiences. From the directors perception, ‘distilling the essence’ would be the most valuable method to provide an insight into the significant aspects of the play.
From an actors point of view, ‘hotseating’ would be the most beneficial to expand and cultivate their knowledge of the character. A playwright would find it rewarding to use ‘role on the wall’ where they could construct each character and record their different features and qualities. Overall, my personal response to the play, was that it made me consider new and different aspects to life in the 1960s, which is a relatively short time ago, however, most people’s responses to issues covered in the play, have changed considerably in modern times.
Previously to studying ‘Be my Baby’, I had not deemed the generation of ‘Be My Baby’ as much different from today. I now realise, that although the class system still exists in a minority, it does not dominate our lives or affect our opinions of people in such a prominent way. Becoming a mother young, is still not advisable, however, teenaged parents are becoming more common, and are not expelled from society.
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