Pig Tales

An unusual play about an unusual life. Julie McNamara tells her life story (a female child raised as boy) in a series of 5 sketches based around the children’s nursery rhythm “This little piggy went to market”.

This little piggy is Julie McNamara herself. In the first scene she plays her mother, nursing a wooden baby pig reciting the “Hail Mary” as if it were some lullaby to soothe a troubled child. With each recitation the words are slightly changed and we soon realise that her mother is far from a ‘faithful’ catholic, but a woman with many doubts and apprehensions about her adopted faith. We later see her mother mock the idea that a person can be made catholic with just a few splashes of Holy Water, “What is all that about?” she asks. And when caught by the priest eating meat on a Friday she mocks him by splashing the meat with Holy Water and saying “You are a fish, You are a fish”.

This naming of things and people and having ‘blind’ faith in the power of words to change reality is a reflection on McNamara’s own experience. When she was born her father was bitterly disappointed that she was not the boy he had longed for. After disappearing for three weeks on a alcoholic binge, he returned to the family home, painted the baby’s bedroom blue and announced that his daughter is not a she but is really a he, the son he always wanted and named her/him Kevin.

So the unusual event of McNamara’s life begins to unfold. Now dressed as a boy, treated as a boy, and more importantly receiving parental love and approval on the bases that she is a boy, McNamara believes herself to be a boy. With a bit of help, supplied by the index finger of a rubber glove stuffed with toilet paper, she was even able to boast of her manhood, so convincingly, that as a child the parish priest had an unpleasant surprise when he attempted to sexually abuse ‘Kevin’.

Sadly, McNamara found herself in trouble with the police who sent her to a psychiatric hospital, where she was to spend the next twenty years being treated for penis envy, gender dysphoria and lesbianism. Proof enough in my opinion that a great deal of psychology about sexuality and gender identity is based on ignorance and ‘blind faith’ in fashionable theories.

The sketches are images of events that appear to be selected randomly from her life. Each sketch is satirical in nature and events are chosen according to the impact they had on a confused teenager. Whilst this expressed the bewilderment such experiences most have had, they do not help to provide much in the way of biographical information or in able us to see the real Julie McNamara. I felt I knew less about her after the play then I did from reading the play’s synopsis! Where was she brought up? It appeared to be in Merseyside, but I was not sure. When was she born? What were the dates she spent in a psychiatric hospital? Is she ‘cured’? And what does she understand by that word?

Julie McNamara is talented and has great comic timing and is entertaining as she tells her story. However, I found her writing confusing and mystifying. Her biography appears to have been left out of this play.

Alan Bird

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