Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Adam Welsh: There But For The Grace Of God (Go I)

By | Published on Monday 6 August 2018

I’ve been aware of this show from Adam Welsh for a while now – I gave it a tip, I am sure, during a previous London run – and was intrigued by it, not least because it touches on one of the most famous abduction cases in history.

When I heard it was headed for new dates at the Soho Theatre, I was determined to find out more about the play, and what inspired it.

CM: The Adam Walsh case is a very famous one and I am old enough to have been alive then… not everyone will know about him, though, so can you fill us in a bit?
AW: Adam Walsh was a child who went missing from a shopping mall in Florida in 1981. His is probably the most famous case of child abduction in American history. The scale of the media coverage that the case received was, at that time, unprecedented. And because the case was so well known, it exposed flaws in the infrastructure for finding missing children in America, and ultimately improvements to child protection laws were made as a result of Adam’s disappearance. It is also an interesting case in that no one was ever arrested for Adam’s abduction or murder. There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the case and I think it was partly uncertainty which fuelled the case’s momentum. We just can’t bear uncertainty, can we?

CM: How did you find out about him?
AW: Vanity. I used to google myself to how successful I was online. My name is Adam Welsh and Adam Walsh is still the top hit for my name.

CM: What made you want to create a show referencing him?
AW: Because so much of our identity now is who we are online, Adam somehow seemed integrated into my identity. This is obviously absurd, because I have nothing to do with him. But the more I looked into the case, the more I realised that actually there was very little separating us. There were a lot of odd coincidences- my Dad’s name is also John, we are both only-children, the list goes on…

One major difference is that he is significantly more famous than I am. The show arose out of this tension. As the show developed, I thought a lot about the fact that none of us are more than a hair’s breadth away from catastrophe at any given moment. Especially as children, we are so vulnerable to a whole host of risks. This then formed the central subject of the show, which is survival and the unexpected connections that exist between us, if we look closely enough to find them.

CM: I understand that the show is probably more about you than him – but what is the balance there?
AW: I’d like to think that it is about us both in equal measure, though as there is only so much that I can say about Adam, the show has to become about me and my relationship to his story. Very little is actually known about what really happened to Adam; there is the fact of his disappearance, there is the story of how his parents handled it, but there isn’t much else. Adam is very much missing from his own narrative. I felt that a way of attempting to understand him and his story was to look very closely at my own life through the lens of what happened to him.

CM: What themes and ideas do you explore through the show? Do you have a message to deliver?
AW: Thematically, I am looking at the idea of being a parent and what it means to be parented. I’m also questioning the nature of success, something I think too many of us are obsessed with. I want people to have their own individual experience of the show. I want to create a space for people to reflect upon their own lives.

CM: It’s a nightmare scenario for parents, of course… do you think this is a difficult show to watch because of that?
AW: We were very conscious of this when making the show. We decided that we wanted to handle Adam’s story in a humane and very careful way. Often True Crime employs a sensationalist and exploitive tone and we wanted to avoid that completely. Also, if we focused too much on the darkness, the show would be impossible to digest. It would cave in on itself. We tried to find the lightness so while there are moments that are certainly challenging, there is a lot of warmth and humour within the show too.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about you now – how did you come to be working in performance? Was it something you always wanted to do?
AW: Ha – good question. It was a toss-up between being a painter and a performer. I used to say that I chose performance because I was mostly painting portraits of people and performance seemed the best way of portraying people, which is actually rubbish. I was just desperate to leave home at 18 and I got into drama school before I got into art school, so I went to drama school. I liked the people in theatre, it was a good place to meet girls, and I liked getting a clap at the end of a show.

CM: What aims or ambitions do you have for the future?
AW: I’d like to live until I’m very old and to be happy and healthy. I have just got married so I’d like to spend more quality time with my wife, and maybe have children one day.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
AW: I’m making a show with my wife.


‘There but for the grace of God (go I)’ is on at Soho Theatre from 6-8 Aug, see the venue website here for more info.

LINKS: | |

Photo: Peter Corkhill