Wendy Miller and Rachel Amey collaborate on The Bridge at Glasgay! 2010
New play explores theme of teenage suicide
Having met at last year’s Glasgay! Wendy Miller and Rachel Amey were keen to work together again. The result is a thought-provoking new play that explores teenage suicide and issues of guilt and blame in society
The creative partnership behind one of the chief commissions at this year’s Glasgay! 2010 is one that the festival was itself instrumental in fostering.
Wendy Miller met Rachel Amey last year, after Amey was cast in Miller’s Glasgay! 2009 drama Even in Another Time. They’ve kept up a dialogue and become friends since, meeting frequently at poetry evenings such as Monosyllabic, the spoken word and performance night at Mono which Miller runs. As Glasgow’s annual celebration of queer culture rolled around again, the pair were approached to collaborate once more, and co-write a production that would become The Bridge, a provocative play examining some serious issues faced by young Scots today.
‘Glasgay! had this idea of looking at teenage suicide and we agreed to take that general theme and shape it and try to find characters and develop them,’ director Miller, a former Evening Times reporter, explains. ‘Suicide’s still a taboo subject, and we wanted to take that and look at it, and explore characters who are not just case studies. We also wanted to look at a lot of surrounding issues – issues of blame and guilt in society, as well as among family members.’
In what Amey describes as ‘a brother’s quest’, 17-year-old Tam goes in search of his twin-sister Nicole who, together with her friend Steph, has been missing for over a week. They were last seen on ‘the Bridge’ – a crossing that dually serves as a metaphorical device spanning the gap between teenage years and adulthood, life and death.
On paper, the play brings to mind a heart-wrenching case which hit headlines in October last year - that of two girls, aged 14 and 15, who disappeared from a Renfrewshire local authority care unit and were later discovered to have killed themselves by leaping hand-in-hand from the Erskine Bridge. Yet, Miller and Amey insist there’s absolutely no direct correlation. ‘We’re really explicit in the play that we’re not basing any of the characters on real people or anything that’s actually happened,’ says Amey.
While undoubtedly shocking, that particular case was but one high profile example among many recent cases of young people taking their own lives in profoundly sad circumstances – as Miller and Amey, who researched intensively for The Bridge, point out. ‘There were four young men who hung themselves in Dundee just this summer,’ Miller says. ‘And two students who killed themselves by lethal injection in a hotel room in Ayr.’
There’s a crucial tie-in with queer issues – that of ‘emotional censorship’ as Miller puts it. ‘The fact that we can’t talk about these subjects,’ she says, ‘kind of chimes with LGBT themes, of families who can’t discuss their son or daughter being gay. There are studies about the effects of negative attitudes towards LGBT children, and how that affects their self-esteem and rates of self-harming and attempted suicide. So I think it’s right that Glasgay! should be exploring these difficult issues.’
The Bridge, The Arches, Glasgow, Sun 26–Thu 30 Oct.