Stephen Unwin
Stephen Unwin
(© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage)

It's a slightly weird thing to be and experienced theatre an opera director of 35 years and suddenly decide to write my first play. It's about something which is very close to my heart: the rights and dignity of the profoundly disabled. I'm the father of a young man with severe disabilities, he's aged 20 and has no speech. I've become a bit of a campaigner over the years.

All Our Children is about a very horrible moment in history which was the Nazi persecution of the disabled. They murdered about 100,000 disabled people. One of their chief justifications was that it's very expensive to keep these people alive, and that money could be spent on soldiers and things that matter. In the present day, when we talk about the rights and dignity of the disabled, the cost has become more and more of an issue. So there are resonances for today.

The play is about a doctor in a clinic who is having a breakdown. He isn't sure whether he should be doing this any more. His maid, who has three healthy children, is beginning to realise there is no difference between the disabled children at the clinic, and her own. There's a mother who discovers her child has been killed, but like all parents of disabled children, is an absolute warrior.

In the first scene the mother comes to thank the doctor for looking after her child. I know exactly that type of gratitude to people who are looking after your child. Making his life possible and making my life possible. But there's a funny thing there, because to say "I can't look after my own child" is probably as big a sense of failure as you can have. I had to put myself in her position and think about how her issues would affect me, and that was a strange thing to do.

One of the big issues with disability is fear. People are scared. They think 'I'll say the wrong thing' or 'I'll do the wrong thing'. That fear is a really bad place to be. Society needs to get beyond that fear, and that's why the play is called All My Children. It's not like I say I've got two children and one disabled one; they are all my children.

I think the play has something important to say: what are our real values? In a time when we're spending fortunes on somethings, but to be endlessly cutting back on what we spend on the most vulnerable, it's a worrying thing. I respect money and realise things cost money, and we're not in 1941, but we've got to keep looking at these things.

All Our Children runs at the Jermyn Street Theatre until 3 June.