Fagan’s debut novel, about a 15-year-old counter-culture outlaw placed in the system, has now been brought to life by the National Theatre of Scotland
The actors have become wild things. They gnash their terrible teeth. Pound their feet. The company bringing to life my novel The Panopticon are pushing themselves as hard as they can towards a point of no return. Anna Russell-Martin is playing the lead role of Anais Hendricks, a 15-year-old counterculture outlaw and young offender who has just been accused of a violent crime and placed in the Panopticon. She shoves a circle of actors surrounding her, clears a space for herself and drops to the floor in tears – fierce and sudden. She makes a sound that could be wolfish, it holds rage, strength, frustration. I know that sound. I know how affecting this world can be.
This is a story I never wanted to tell about a system I did not choose to be raised in. I walked into more than 30 different placements with strangers before the age of 16. I had four legal names. I lived in every single area of the care system. I was a runaway from the age of 12. I’d had strangers telling me who I was for as long as I could remember. My sense of identity as a kid was so fragmented. I wrote poetry daily from the age of seven, for no other reason than I had to and I didn’t see why I shouldn’t. I was too sensitive by far, but I was also pissed off. I did not see why I should have to accept what was expected from me as a child who had always been in the care system.
'We are all observed now': Jenni Fagan on The Panopticon