Piece Of My Heart

Sunday 5 April, 8.30pm on TV One

Kiwi stars Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider), Emily Barclay (In My Father’s Den), Rena Owen (Once Were Warriors) and Annie Whittle (The World’s Fastest Indian) star in Sunday Theatre: Piece Of My Heart, a compelling drama which unveils one of New Zealand’s secret histories (tonight at 8.30pm on TV ONE).

Sunday Theatre: Piece Of My Heart tells the story of Flora Thornley, who gave up a daughter for adoption as a 17-year-old. She has never told anyone, including her husband and two adult sons. But she has contacted her daughter for the first time, only to receive a brutal rejection.

Devastated, Flora flees her home and runs to the only person she thinks will understand – Kat, who was her closest friend when they were both in a home for unmarried mothers. But they haven’t seen each other since and their lives have been very different. Kat’s place isn’t the safe haven Flora seeks. Also living there is Ani, a stroppy teenager two weeks away from giving birth and in complete denial.

Flora writes to her daughter, explaining how and why a woman could give away her baby, taking viewers back 1968 to learn what really happened. In the present, Flora has to face up to the damage caused by a life of deception as she tries to reconnect with Kat, deal with Ani and tell husband Mike the truth. Keisha Castle-Hughes and Rena Owen play the past and present Kat, and Emily Barclay and Annie Whittle the past and present Flora.

Director Fiona Samuel adapted the drama from the 1995 novel Does This Make Sense To You? by playwright Renee Taylor, which is fiction based on what often happened to unmarried New Zealand women who fell pregnant in years past. Samuel says that the subject struck a chord with her and the actresses. “It seemed almost incredible that such things had happened here, in this country, such a short time ago – babies taken from their mothers and adopted by strangers, and the young women who had gone through pregnancy and birth only to ‘give their children away’ just expected to keep quiet and deal with it.”

Samuel says that such situations seem cruel and deeply unnatural, but she knows from first-hand experience how often it happened: “My youngest brother was adopted into my family at 10 days old, when I was seven. I remember vividly bringing him home from the hospital.”

Total silence shrouded teenage pregnancies in the 1960s. Annie Whittle remembers girls disappearing from her school classroom for months at a time, and then suddenly reappearing with no explanation. “Flora’s story felt very familiar to me,” she says. “I am also sure that the telling of it will be revelatory for many, and prove cathartic for those who may find comfort in having these events aired at last.”

Keisha Castle-Hughes agrees. “As an actor and a mother, I can’t imagine anything more hurtful, something that would completely destroy me and my identity. Society didn’t allow these women to grieve, or mourn or move through the emotions of losing a child.”

She adds: “I hope this story helps women who went through this; who lost children they would have loved so much and who were deeply affected by the experience – this is ultimately for them.”

For Emily Barclay, acting in a drama that she saw as the “secret history” of New Zealand life brought a deep sense of commitment to the women it represented. “Flora’s world changes so irrevocably and the effect this has on her is devastating,” she says. “Going through that as an actor made me feel so much heartache for the women who experienced this, and gave me a sense of personal responsibility – that I think everyone involved had – that we really had to do the story justice.”

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  • Claire Richardson

    To whom it may concern.
    I hear this Sunday Theatre was really interesting and would love to use it in my english research, ‘How Women are treated”.
    How do i get ahold of the full show?
    Yours truely