Finding Home – a piece for DAWTA by Dionne Draper

23 Jul 2019

Photography by Chelsey Cliff

From 8–20 July, Bristol Ferment hosted its bi-annual Ferment Fortnight, celebrating works-in-progress from South West artists in a two-week long festival. To give a more in-depth look at the workings of Bristol Ferment, Bristol Old Vic welcomed Yolanda Fenlon and Halima Sesay from Rising Arts Agency who took on a social media and content work placement with the Communications team. 

This piece was written by Yolanda aka Malizah, a poet, writer and lyricist, who spoke to Sing with Soul's Dionne Draper about her new musical DAWTA.

Many stories step onto the stage with Dionne Draper.

A work exploring identity, self-discovery, race and God, DAWTA represents a struggle of one and translates the voice of many.

This semi auto-biographical musical is a one woman show. Directed by Hanna Lune and performed by Dionne Draper from Sing with Soul.

“My dream is that this is a play other people get to do.” Dionne Draper smiles. As we sit after rehearsals she explains how although it is a one woman show, her vision is for it to develop into a piece that can be interpreted by others on stage one day. For now, though, Draper will play all 7 characters and after seeing the first live performance at Bristol Old Vic, she plays them very well.

Through 10 songs and a humorous and thoughtful storyline, we are immersed into memorable moments, the black British experience and truth of many unheard and misrepresented voices existing in our communities.

The beauty is that the story is told from different angles and perspectives. As the audience we are able to witness the voice of the adopted, the white English voice alongside the black British voice. Jamaican heritage and patois as well as being touched by the words of motherhood, and the thoughts of a young girl asking who am I? Spanning ages, nationalities and backgrounds the characters of DAWTA are representative of an integrating Britain and of people who may usually go with their story unheard.

Watching Dionne Draper’s performance at Bristol Old Vic, we were moved by laughter as well as tear evoking moments as she strung together the story of Sarah.

The main character – black in a white world, Sarah is separated from her Jamaican mother at five days old. She is then adopted and raised by a white family in rural Devon. Many stories are heard through Sarah’s own journey. In conversation with Dionne in the closing of her final rehearsal before show day, we came to learn the greater meaning behind the musical. “The big purpose is to get more black carers, more black families adopting and to get more black foster carers.” We sat and talked about the relevance and need for this discussion to be brought to the light and the power of it being shared through art.

As of October 2018, BAME children waiting to be adopted made up 30% of the national adoption register and in London, they make up 75%.* 

DAWTA is telling a story that will be close to home for many. The show encourages needed conversations surrounding care and fostering and is aiming to be used to reach the needs within the real lives of the community.

During our chat, Dionne was very passionate explaining that the show is working with Bristol City Council and once they are on tour, "DAWTA will work with the local council in each city and their fostering and adoption agencies to promote more black families to help support BAME children in need."

DAWTA, a story of finding a home within identity, is now endeavouring to find its home on stage and in doing so hopes to find more representative homes for young children in care.

Truly inspiring Dionne Draper and Hanna Lune are taking on an amazing journey that has the potential to impact many young lives in a positive way and they are using theatre and art to begin to make this change.   

By Malizah

*Based on information in October 2018 from Adoption Match which operates the Adoption Register for England on behalf of the Department for Education