Riding the roller coaster of a marriage breakdown

HER parents had more love for US singer Whitney Houston than each other, says actor and playwright Whitney Richards, hence her moniker.

She was just eight when the inevitable divorce came; a time of confusion and foggy memories for the now 30 year old.

“I have conflicting memories. Do I remember, or is it because there were photos of that, or is there anything I have blocked?” she wonders.

• Whitney Richards ponders what are real memories, and whether she suppressed any when her parents’ marriage broke down in I Do I Don’t. Photo supplied

• Whitney Richards ponders what are real memories, and whether she suppressed any when her parents’ marriage broke down in I Do I Don’t. Photo supplied

Her calling

Eventually Richards found her calling as a performer, thanks to the glittery world of the Rock Eisteddfod Challenge.

And now she’s digging up the past with I Do, I Don’t, a one-woman show of interviews with family members and photographs lost and found.

“It’s a story about a woman’s search for answers, shining a light on our optimism in the wake of trauma,” Richards says.

Mum, dad and sisters were generous in their telling of that dark time.

“I stayed with my sister in Adelaide and she could really talk,” Richards says.

A road trip with her mother revealed a deep well of painful memories: “But I didn’t want to press too much because she was driving.”

The long-drawn out process of recording and transcribing the family story was a “roller coaster ride”, Richards says.

“There’s a lot of bad stuff and negative things between certain family members.”

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However she sees I Do, I Don’t as a cathartic process, and her own journey to find out who she is.

“Finding out where you come from and sorting out where you are going,” she tells the Voice.

“It’s not about blame…I wanted to figure out why I turned out so optimistic and positive.”

While her family are aware of what’s gone into Richard’s debut play, she’s a tad worried about them seeing it live on stage.

“Everyone was on board and trusted me…[But] I’m still not sure about my mum and dad seeing it,” she says.

I Do I Don’t is on at the Blue Room Theatre until September 3.

Tickets $18–28 at blueroom.org.au or on 9227 7005.

by JENNY D’ANGER

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