Jules Allen’s world becomes a stage with debut play to grace Anglesea
IN A time when truthful conversations are often avoided rather than explored, Jules Allen articulately explains why. In her words, “people are allergic to discomfort”.
The youth worker turned playwright has spent the last few years pursuing a career in the performing arts – a dream she’s had since she was two.
Although it was always Jules’ plan to become an actor, she acknowledged it wasn’t an easy road. An oppressive battle with drug and alcohol addiction inadvertently pierced her childhood ambition, but despite the odds of fate versus reality, it simultaneously presented a new and meaningful pathway.
“I was 19, I had major drug issues, alcohol issues. I was depressed, I was suicidal… I was not in a good way,” Jules admitted.
“A girlfriend of mine’s sister was working as a youth worker. Her job was basically just to pick up kids who were really struggling and talk to them.
“I remember meeting her one day and thinking, ‘I want to be exactly like her’. That’s the only time I’ve had that thought.”
At 22, Jules took in her first foster child and was working in youth support and child protection. She has since housed over 30 children.
“I think because of my troubled beginnings I had a real empathy for the kids I was working with,” Jules said.
“I understood what they were going through, and I understood what they needed. They don’t need anyone to fix them, they just need to be heard.”
Once Jules began learning at 16th Street, an acting school in Caulfield, she realised how powerful a platform theatre could be in presenting societal issues which are reflective of her conscience and life’s work.
The morning after a Christmas party in 2018, Jules wandered to a Melbourne café and began writing her first play.
Just over three hours later, her spur of the moment idea unfolded before her eyes. Titled Slipped Through The Cracks, Jules’ inaugural production is a visceral account of Australia’s labyrinthine foster care system.
“I’ve got no idea where it came from; it sort of feels like it wasn’t my play,” she confessed.
“Most people don’t even know about foster care in Australia or what’s happening with these kids or how flawed our system is.
“As much as I wanted to present how flawed the system is, I also wanted to show how hard people work in it, and how you can’t really win in a system when it’s designed to fail at the moment.”
A culmination of stories and experiences, Slipped Through The Cracks explores what happens when a child under the watchful eye is not placed in a home until it’s too late. Jules said the mental repercussions on young people who feel as though they don’t belong are lasting.
“They’re so damaged. The trauma has had such a massive impact on everything that goes near them, and then they get labelled as the problem,” Jules said.
“The biggest issue is that people don’t open their doors. These kids can’t be taken into homes if there’s nowhere to put them.”
Directed by Anglesea Performing Arts’ Iris Walshe-Howling and starring Philip Besancon, Morgan Caruana, Stacey Carmichael, Jules Fryman, Libby Stapleton and Janine McKenzie, Slipped Through The Cracks will debut at this year’s One Act Play Festival in Anglesea.
Ground-breaking in its portrayal and execution, the play paints the darker side of foster care. Providing a voice to the powerless, Jules said she hoped to, at the very least, ignite discussion.
“I ended up adopting three kids I had in care, and their stories have ended really well – they’re in a loving home, their careers are going well and their lives (are) on track,” she said.
“But that’s three out of 32 kids I had. Out of 29 of them, I know the stories of about ten. I’d say two of them are doing OK and the other eight aren’t doing so good.
“The reality is it doesn’t end well for these kids. They’re moved around, shuffled in the system and constantly rejected because there’s not enough carers.”
Jules said stories about people overcoming struggle are not only her favourite to write but are often the most hard-hitting.
“We (actors) are just a vessel for someone else’s story,” Jules said.
“I have to stay true to what matters and me becoming an actor doesn’t matter, but if I can tell a story of someone else’s pain and have that heard, that matters.”
Catch Slipped Through The Cracks on August 23, 24, 30 or 31 at Anglesea Memorial Hall (1B McMillan St, Anglesea). For more information and for tickets, visit trybooking.com/BEACK or angleseaperformers.org.au.