Lilly Burton

Lilly Burton

Is There Comedy in Trauma?

I wrote my show All Aboard! At Termination Station, an autobiographical comedy cabaret about abortion, because duh! What else you gonna write one about, with an industry that has a thirst for trauma stories? I wanted to make a show to break down stigma, or was it a fast-evolving neurosis about wanting to be recognised as ‘a new talent’? Should I feel guilty about this? Should we question our need to bare our hearts, or in my case womb, to everyone to peer in and approve of?

It happened when I was 19. I was in a ‘bad’ relationship with a ‘bad’ man (the recipe for any great female-led narrative). I had a belligerent and blind want to fall in love. I went for a popular (incapable, sociopath) older boy (cliché, I know!). For the first few months, I denied even to myself that I was even pregnant. I was too afraid to face reality so I went through the first trimester (three months) in denial.

It was only when I projectile vomited onto my boyfriend’s mum while she was making bacon sandwiches that I finally admitted to myself that this was not something I could wish away. I decided to have a termination. The nurse who escorted me to the theatre room was heavily pregnant herself – she was HUGE. I remember trying not to touch her belly and waking up after the procedure to see that same belly leaning over me. 

So, why did I decide to make a show about my experience? Nobody wanted to talk about it, not my family, not even my friends. They didn’t have the right tools, it still feels like the most socially acceptable thing to is just AVOID, AVOID, AVOID!  I mean, no one had ever mentioned abortion to me at school or at home or what you should do if you winded up needing one? The fear and silence surrounding the subject paralysed me. That’s what pushed me to make a really big loud show about abortion. It was 2018, the Repeal the Eighth campaign was happening, people were ready to listen. 

It’s taken a long time to write this show. It takes time! Especially when you aren’t financially supported, but more a self-producing dyslexic, alcohol and drug consuming late-twenty-something working in hospitality type. Oh yeah, she uses dyslexia as an excuse for being drunk and lazy! But no, seriously it’s not easy! You utilize drunken tube and night bus journeys to frantically type down all your whirring thoughts. What next? I found a fellow creative in the restaurant where I worked and it turned out he was a brilliant, structural storytelling gem! Along with some close friends who were my first audience, watching segments of terrible poems and terrible, terrible song lyrics finally one true friend gave me the ‘ah-ha’ moment. They advised I ‘drop the serious act, this show is funny!’ 

So, I ran with it. It was funny. I felt guilty. If theatre is a religion, then by god I am a Catholic! I love making myself feel terrible about the fact I’m not doing it right or I’m not dedicated enough. So, I decided to get pregnant (AGAIN) and have another abortion (not so Catholic). Some people might call me a method actor, but I just couldn’t figure out the end?! “Ha ha, very funny. what really happened?” Yep! That really happened! The guy who knocked me up this time decided that he would pay for the promotional billboards of my preview show in 2019. A man really does recognise the implication of having an abortion when they know you’re making a show about it.

I performed a preview pregnant and I’m proud to say it! Writing about my abortion helped me process it, helped me to make it external and something ‘other.’ Separating myself from it was cathartic and ultimately a great thing. It gave me ownership of my experience; I wanted to have control over how people would see it. 

I am now an executive committee member at Abortion Rights UK (I’m super qualified after having two!), I perform at and run fundraisers, I’m now Fundraising Chair (lol, I didn’t expect that either). 2020 happened, dunno if you noticed? And, like many performers who had a show about to spread its wings, I’m trying to make this show fly again. So, All Aboard! At Termination Station and let’s see where you take me next! 

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