The ‘Me’ in this sensitive, genre-defying show, is writer and performer Wayne Steven Jackson. And the ‘Us’ is him and his, so far, unborn child. What makes the address unusual is that Jackson is gay and a bachelor and only a very recent change in the law has allowed for single father surrogacy.
Jackson presents the show as a documentary – there’s plenty about the procedure of planning to have a child. But the “fragments and experiences” that make up the show are original and poetic. From Me To Us is an “unfolding mystery” – immersed in the idea that it is a story very much ongoing and, until recently, impossible.
The storytelling is good. For my taste, Chris Benstead’s music adds unnecessary sentimentality (too many swelling ‘cellos). But Jackson’s clarity about the use of his imagination – and the way he references the theatricality of what we are watching – creates a strong sense of openness. And, as a love story, the tenderness towards the future child is moving and powerful. A particular highlight of great sincerity comes when Jackson reads a letter from his own parents live on stage.
It is by broadening out from his subject matter that Jackson renders From Me To Us magical. Just as fatherhood makes him “more than just me”, the show grows in appeal. There are big questions of mortality and time. Glimpses of the past and future, aided by speed, split screens and trickery from videographer Ben Horrigan, raise issues of selfhood. A claim could be made that the show is as much about memory as paternity: “echoes, remnants, and reminders” flow through the action, enforcing the fact that the big event, the birth, is yet to happen.
Most impressively, Jackson makes us consider potential afresh. Note all the “maybes” in his script – all the chances and possibilities. Not just the potential of a new life but a new relationship and the changes that parenthood brings. Thinking about such a different path in life becomes, possibly needs to be, a question of breaking the rules. And that rebellion is inspiring. In bravely embracing possibilities, Jackson should win respect and best wishes from all of us.
Until 16 May 2021