Zena Forster’s dark new comedy, After Birth, is to debut at The North Wall Arts Centre in Oxford in June
After Birth, a new comedy exploring motherhood and postpartum psychosis, is to premiere at Oxford’s North Wall Arts Centre in June.
Written by Zena Forster and directed by Grace Duggan, the play is rooted in real-life testimonies of women who experienced psychosis after the birth of their babies.
It runs from 10 to 12 June at The North Wall Arts Centre in Oxford, with a cast featuring Simon Darwen, Samantha Robinson and Alice Vilanculo.
In After Birth, holiday camp entertainer Ann and the Virgin Mary have been detained without trial on a medieval plague island in the middle of the Venetian Lagoon. Buffoonish and malevolent by turns, their doctors are intent on curing them of their heinous crime: “Being A Bad Mum”. This is the world of Ann’s mind – part of the postpartum psychosis she is experiencing after the birth of her baby.
Imaginatively staged, with elements of stand-up and a dynamic original sound score, After Birth takes audiences on a journey of recovery. Ann’s experiences might be extreme but they are recognisable and relatable: what mother hasn’t felt judged, or been demoralised by the myth of the perfect mum?
Forster said: “Just as the women I interviewed didn’t want to be defined by their illness, so After Birth isn’t a play about psychosis, it’s a play about a tough, witty woman who happens to have psychosis. The women I interviewed were amazing – courageous, inspirational and often very funny. It was natural that my protagonist was like that too.”
The play grew out of a collaboration between Forster and researchers at the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit (NPEU) at Oxford University. Its reports consistently show that in the UK suicide stubbornly remains the leading direct cause of maternal death between six weeks and one year after birth, with women from ethnically diverse communities disproportionately affected.
Forster interviewed many women around the country with lived experience of postpartum psychosis, working closely with the national charity, Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP), which fully supported the development of After Birth.
Duggan said: “Zena has created this incredibly detailed and responsive play about the realities of postpartum psychosis. After Birth doesn’t hold its tongue, it doesn’t shield us from the truth, and it doesn’t stop us from awkwardly laughing with a psychotic mother.
“We want people to start talking about postpartum psychosis and continue the discussion about the pressure of motherhood. Through our characters and with this story we hope to expose it all and have a laugh along the way.”
The show is presented by Maiden Moor Productions. It has been designed by Will Alder and Sascha Gilmour and the producer is Emma Dolman.