Care and Control

Company Name: Gay Sweatshop Theatre Company 
Researched and devised by the company (especially Nancy Diuguid and Priscella Allen)
Scripted: Michelene Wandor
Director: Kate Crutchley
Music: Terri Quaye
Designer : Mary Moore
Cast 1: Kate Phelps, Michael Kellan, Natasha Fairbanks, Helen Barnaby, Kate Crutchley, Nancy Diuguid, Michael Kellan
Cast 2: Libby Mason, Martin Panter, Sara Hardy, Marilyn Milgrom, Jill Posener, Patricia Donovan
Photography: Jill Posener
Poster design: Isobel Irvine

The first show from the Women’s company was Care and Control, a social realist play about lesbians in custody cases. Following the success of Any Woman Can, the company became aware of the problems for lesbian mothers in custody cases, where children had been taken away because lesbianism was considered harmful to children. From this impetus, Nancy Diuguid researched the material for the show, interviewing mothers, lawyers and children and speaking to The Association of Lesbian Parents and a group of feminist lawyers called The Rights of Women. This research was devised into a play by the company and later scripted by Michelene Wandor, the play was a successful piece of documentary theatre that exposed the persecution of lesbian mothers who did not fit in with the State’s official ideal of a wife and mother. The show was dedicated to the women who had helped with the research and those who were still fighting custody battles. The production opened at Action Space (later to become The Drill Hall) in 1977 and toured for 3 months.

The company programme for Care and Control stated:

‘Single mothers, lesbian and heterosexual, face the same kind of prejudice when they come before the judicial system.
A woman is suspect in the eyes of the State when she asserts her right to live independently of men. She is seen as a direct challenge to family life and the traditional sexual roles which the court uphold.
It is against these attitudes and assumptions, which deny all of us the right to decide the most basic and intimate matters of our lives, that women are organising to fight the custody battle. It is a dramatic development – one which the women of Gay Sweatshop wished to explore, not only for the sake of representing the struggle, but to advance it!
Gay Sweatshop wishes to increase general awareness of the oppression of sexuality; to raise questions (leading to discussion) about the nature of oppression, the society which reinforces it and the resultant effects on people’s lives.’

‘These experiences like any so-called collectives wanting to be totally egalitarian, are very, very difficult. Because people come in with different agendas, different histories, there is no such thing as structurelessness. There was all this stuff that was part of political debate not just theatre debate. So on the one hand I had complete respect for people who wanted to do that. But what very often happened, was that the groups themselves found that there were certain skills that could be shared and democratised: performing, staging, those aspects. But there were certain parts of the process where specific skills really were particularly needed, and writing was one of them and directing was another. And some of the group work, by all kinds of groups not just the women’s groups at all, where people did share a purpose and a goal and did find a way to put a piece of performance together were fantastically exciting and powerful. And that’s why I felt very strongly when I was doing the editing stuff that this stuff should be published. To have a piece of art that is political, that is the product of a group process is fantastically important and fantastically exciting. … There was no role for writers as such. It took until later on until they would work with them. They reached a point for whatever set of reasons that they realised that they needed someone who could write. … I already knew Kate Crutchley who was working with the women’s bit of Gay Sweatshop. And they had done a huge amount of research into custody and child custody and attitudes in the law towards lesbians and heterosexuals. And they had come up with three storylines and a lot of research. They had done a lot of devising and they had transcribed a lot of it, but it was quite incohate and so Kate approached me and asked if I’d come in and script it. … I think Kate was largely responsible for quite an interesting structure, a division between the first half and the second half. So I came into something where there was a lot of scenes. A lot of material, a lot of which hadn’t been incorporated and quite an interesting structure. So I put that together into a manageable shape. Following some of the basics and also adding some stuff at the beginning and adding some other little bits and pieces. It was a very good actually. I think what I did was very good, I think their ideas and their commitment and the way they planned out the storylines was also really quite impressive.  So I think that was a very, very good piece of work where I just came in and did my writer’s job. So I wasn’t involved with them during the research, I had no input into the performance, or any of that. That was their business.’ Michelene Wandor.

‘Michelene Wandor put together Care and Control for instance, but half of it was improvised and half of it was court case and she never thought the two things worked together, but because it was a commission to do it for us, she couldn’t just take it and redo it.’ Kate Crutchley interview.

‘I think it was the tour of Any Woman Can particularly. And then Nancy was very keen on the women doing something more about custody cases so she really instigated that and did the research. Who wrote that, was it Kate? Michelene scripted it from all the improvisations and work. It was really Nancy’s piece.’ Mary Moore interview

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