Whenever I say or read the words Child Free (which is quite often), the theme song from the film Born Free plays in my head. Here’s a reminder of it, play this and then sing along with me.
As free as the wind blows
As free as the grass grows
Child Free to follow your heart
It works, right? Born Free came out in March 1966 shortly after my parents brought me home from the Church of England Children’s Society Mother and Baby Home. As an adopted person, the story of Elsa the lion cub is very close to my heart.
Elsa is orphaned because her birth parents are shot (just because they ate some people) and the three cubs are adopted by George Adamson and his wife Joy who are more Child Less, than Child Free. As they get older and too big (the cubs, not George and Joy), the two eldest cubs are packed off to the zoo and Elsa, the youngest is kept because Joy is a bit needy. And Child Less.
Bloody typical adoption story, split up the triplets, keep the cute young one, never mention the other two again. But one day Elsa savagely tears into a wheel of Brie after discovering that her birth father was French…no wait, I’m confusing it with my own story. Never mind.
I wasn’t intending for my first full-length play to be about a woman who has zero interest in having kids. It was always going to be about a grown-up Princess Charlotte, but it started out as a monologue set post-abolition of the British Monarchy with Charlotte looking after her aging parents. It opened with William, Kate, and Charlotte all living together in a bungalow in Lowestoft. It was the first in a slightly off-kilter series about being a caregiver for your parents.
But a 16-week class with the playwright, Laura Neill, and a lot of long walks on the beach on Sanibel Island led to a play that’s radically different from early drafts but is the one I was always meant to write.
I want to submit Charlotte The Last to a new play development opportunity but have to send it with a short essay on why this play and why I’m the best person to write it. So I took inspiration from mountaineer George Mallory who is the chap who replied to the question, “Why did you want to climb Mount Everest?” with “Because it’s there”. According to Wikipedia, these are the ‘most famous three words in mountaineering’. I thought that seemed like a narrow category, but apparently he only narrowly beat Sir Edmund Hillary’s slightly less famous ‘Fuckety, Fuckety Fuckington’. History is fascinating.
Channeling George Mallory, I wrote in my essay that no-one else was writing plays about women who are child-free by choice, so by default that made me the best person to do it. Plus it’s easier than climbing Everest and surviving. Which George didn’t. And I wanted it to be funny because women who are joyfully child-free have had enough lecturing and ridiculous statements from the pronatalist movement about how selfish, immature and deluded we are. Interestingly, the same words used by adoption agencies against birth mothers like mine who tried to keep their babies rather than sign the adoption papers. And also because I like making myself laugh. So the play includes pandas, jackdaws, and a very immature gameshow called Game of Gametes, which ABC will definitely wish they had commissioned.
And best of all, it features Prince George as the somewhat villainous older brother in whose shadow Princess Charlotte lives. In real life, George and Charlotte are currently 6 and 8 years old, a few years away from the ‘accident’ that I predict will change their relationship and dim Charlotte’s bright future. Every time I see George in photos now, looking all cute and innocent, I just think yeah world, give it a few years and see what happens.
Of course all of this is dependent on the British Royal Family sticking around long enough for my play to be produced and not usurping me with some scandal far larger than any I’ve created. Ma’am, please hold on for just a few more years. This is no time for Charles to be taking over.