PODCAST SERIES REVIEW: HIGH SCHOOL TEACHERS can touch one’s life quite deeply. They can inspire you and make you realise the wings you have. But they can also look at you as a 14-year-old and taint you with their own bitterness and unrealised dreams. They can break your sense of self before it is actualised. Premised on a crude prediction made by a school teacher about her in junior high school, Stacey (Aoife Smyth) offers a gritty and deeply moving contribution to this project which focuses on what the world thinks of girls who have babies, in the tenth episode of the Ink Jockey podcast series The End of the Line, directed by Mark Heywood.
It’s a piece not devoid of self-deprecation and a tot of bitterness, but it holds its edge as a self-reflexive monologue maybe because it’s not quite a monologue. Stacey is chatting to her absent mum. And while what she says is as much about a contemplation of how life, the universe and everything might have been with her mum present in it, it’s also a rich and evolved self-portrait that casts a slur on how society looks at women who have children and are not perfect.
And what makes a mother not perfect, in society’s eyes? Her youth? Her tiredness? Her poverty? The irascible nature of her young progeny? In just over 10 minutes, Smyth paints a whole rich and complicated world of unspoken bias and critical judgment on both sides of the line, articulating amazement as to why such an internal organ as the uterus needs to come up against so much external speculation from strangers. With a strong and careful use of language, she alludes to many things in the character’s life, without the need to develop them.
The portrait is flawless. It is a piece that may bring tears, whether you had the privilege of being raised to adulthood by a mum or not. It’s about where we fit into the world as sentient and hopefully empathetic human beings. It presents Stacey as a real person, someone you could toss ideas and sullied or unsullied dreams across the table with.
“Stacey” is the third last episode in series 1 of the project. Series 2 is also available. Keep reading My View to see reviews of the whole suite of episodes.
- Stacey is a story conceived and written by Aoife Smyth and Mark Heywood. Directed by Mark Heywood, it features technical input by Hetty Hodgson. With music by Daisy Chute and Cerian of the Heard Collective, it is performed by Aoife Smyth and it is the tenth in a series of podcasts produced by Ink Jockey collectively called The End of the Line.