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Review: Self-Raising – Flourishing through truth and connection

Two women standing side by side on a stage. The woman on the left is showing the back of a photograph to the woman on the right. The woman on the right is signing in BSL.
A woman on a theatre stage, smiling and holding a book called Flour Babies in her right hand.

By Genevieve Bland, Volunteer Woman Reporter for Bristol Women’s Voice

Jenny Sealy’s poignant one-woman stand-up emphasises the idea that ‘secrets are easier to tell strangers’, a notion she embodies with compelling honesty.

The play starts in an incongruous manner as Jenny walks on stage smiling as she cradles a bag of flour, accompanied by her terp (deaf interpreter). She hands out bags of flour to the members of the audience, each bag has a name and a plea to care for it, she sets the stage for a journey of revelation.

The deaf taboo

Addressing the taboo surrounding deafness, Jenny shares the profound challenge of feeling misunderstood: “I’m not stupid, I’m deaf.”

Jenny delves into the accident which made her deaf, the harshness of medical staff screaming in her face during harrowing hearing tests and her family’s denial of her disability: “I had to learn to live in the hearing world.” Through humorous anecdotes of navigating social gatherings with lip-reading, she paints a vivid picture of resilience amidst adversity.

However, Jenny’s narrative transcends her deafness, focusing instead on the weight of secrets symbolised by the ‘flour babies.’

The onion peel of secrets

With childlike vulnerability, she unfolds her life story, by laying out pictures of her family as well as having her son narrate parts of her story via a projector, her gentle approach to her story is in stark contrast to the very difficult revelations and adversities she had to overcome, from discovering she was the illegitimate daughter of her father’s business partner at age 50 to enduring sexual abuse and captivity as a teenager.

The play delves into the significance of confronting one’s past, as Jenny recounts her decision to disclose her father’s true identity to her sisters and to inform her newfound siblings of their shared heritage. By breaking the cycle of secrecy, she expanded her familial bonds, highlighting the transformative power of honesty and reconciliation.

Find out more about the play here:

The play was showing at the Tobacco Factory Theatres on 19 – 20 March. 

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