A few days left to catch 'Beginners' at the Unicorn Theatre and then, let's hope, it has a life beyond. I saw the play on Thursday evening and have been trying to write something about it ever since. I want to praise it, I want to describe it, I want to capture my experience of it and, by writing it down, insert myself into the narrative of the play. I want to be in 'Beginners'; as one of the child actors. I want to turn back time, or make time jump or fold or contract. I want it to be possible to be an audience member watching myself at 10 being in the play. This play would have saved my life at a time when I could not comprehend the possibility of rescue. I watch it now as a self-saved and self-rescued adult. Beginner's gives me the gift of seeing how it, how it could have been and how it now is.
This is an extraordinary play and Tim is an extraordinary writer and man.
The kickstarter crowdfund campaign for vessel came to fruition & the financial target was met. I am profoundly grateful for the money but more for the support that was demonstrated. I found it incredibly difficult to launch the campaign as I was frightened it would fail. I am rarely frightened to the point of becoming hamstrung but this was one such time. It was only through the urging and support of producer Jane McMorrow and the practical help from my go-to-man Mark Schofield that I had the courage.
vessel is the first work without my beloved Stephen (Clark) talking, encouraging, reading, suggesting, nurturing and providing the unconditional love and support I grew to rely on over the years. Everything, on fairly constant basis, feels fragile to me and over the last few years key people who were part of my emotional infrastructure have died; Professor Olive Stevenson, Clare Cathcart, Lester Munns and, of course Stephen. My love for each of them is woven into the piece.
I continue to try my best to keep myself steady and the love of chums has helped enormously but that can feel fragile. I have had a recent attempt at a romantic relationship and that felt fragile. In her book When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron writes extensively about "resting into groundlessness"; a sense of inner safety that doesn't rely on external supports. I don't have that inner safety and do rely on external support, as demonstrated by the Kickstarter campaign. My under-resourced inner safety tanks were what made it frightening. Asking for money became conflated with my worth. Everything felt fragile and it is right that it should because everything is and we humans are brimful in frailty. It is what makes us marvellous.
Writing a new play demands groundlessness and fragility, it demands both resting into and leaning into. Running a kickstarter required similar; an openness, a vulnerability, a necessity to hold one's nerve and all this could easily be a description of falling in love couldn't it?
It is worth saying that even though I am nowhere near good enough at welcoming groundlessness or being friends with fragility, I am really delighted by the opportunities offered me to practise. Next time I will not try to take three on at once.
I was reading this morning about the Repeal the 8th amendment in Ireland that criminalises abortion in all cases except where to continue a pregnancy would result in death. I saw author Louise O'Neill discuss feminism in Ireland and draw a line in history that places the 8th amendment as the direct descendant from the Mother and Baby Homes and the Magdalene Laundries.
Today is Mother's Day and so notions of direct descendancy and the reward for that are rife. Mothers everywhere are being thanked, no, scratch that, 'good' mothers everywhere are being thanked. So much has been written about the deification and the vilification of mothers; there are still television programmes being made that seriously pose the question of whether the blame for the behaviour of psychopathic murders can be laid at the door of their mothers....another lineage of descendancy as fake as the stereotypical 'good' or 'perfect' mother.
I was of course thinking about my own mother and her struggles with the task at hand. I was thinking about friends, who find a strong identification between their own mother and LaVona Gay Harding as recently portrayed in 'I, Tonya'. I was thinking about friends whose mothers died when they were young and whose bereavement left them vulnerable to violence and abuse.
I was thinking about direct descendancy, the nearness of history and how we understand ourselves in relation to both. I was thinking whether a politicised understanding of history can ameliorate the (painful) lived experience.
My mother should never have been one and I think had she been born in a different time, or, had her own direct descendancy been more nurturing, she could have made, would have had the opportunity to make, different choices. So who do I blame, if indeed blame is of any value? Where is the source? Where is the confluence? These questions are unanswerable except I know I cannot lay the blame in totality at my mother's door or on her doorstep (which she polished with Brasso every day). And there's the rub...the personal and the political...she was as much a victim as I was, and it is only the choices of how we manifested that victimhood that are different. I chose not to be a mother and in doing so ended the lineage of abuse within my family. I wish my mother's history had been different and in the writing of that I wish she were with me.
My new play vessel is about all this, about how we hold our history and how our history holds us, about the connections between the personal and the political and, above all, about the radiance of survival. It is the direct descendant of Can I Start Again Please
My new play vessel is my most ambitious to date, I have previously made work with one or two performers however vessel requires a cast of four diverse female performers to fully realise the themes of the piece. The form of vessel is conceived as a narrative of voices, with a powerful musicality derived from multiplicity, layering and repetition. The underpinning dramaturgy is how these voices are contained or liberated, how they are multiple or solo, whether the text is shared by all or owned by one. What differing resonances are heard when the same text is hosted within the diversity of the cast?
I am creating bespoke captions for each of the performers that makes the work accessible to Deaf/deaf/hard of hearing audiences and also represents the poetics of the script and illuminates the themes. The show will open at the Attenborough Centre for Creative Arts (ACCA) in October 2018 and undertake a three-week run at Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) in November, tour in Spring 2019 and then go to the Edinburgh Fringe August 2019.
Vessel thinks about how we hold our history and how our history holds us. It charts ethical, moral, spiritual & economic paths across the centuries to tangle historical & contemporary notions of withdrawal, silencing, containment and sovereignty. It is impossible to comprehend tackling such subjects if I, as Sue MacLaine Company, am not behaving ethically and morally with regards to working conditions. All of the creative team are wonders; kind, good, talented, generous people and I want appropriate remuneration for that talent and skill. The amount I am hoping to raise through this appeal is equivalent to the cost of one performer paying union wage plus subsistence & accommodation when working away from home.
To say a little more about the work: the idea began with the medieval practice of Anchoritism. It is believed in the period 11th - 15th century there were at least 780 English recluses (the most well-known being Julian of Norwich) on 601 sites and the current estimate is that 50 of these anchor-holds remain across the country.
Vessel contemplates the purpose of retreat, of the necessity for women of 'a room of one's own', a place that literally and metaphorically offers liberation. It explores the mundane, the habitual, the routine, the ordinary and proposes that radiance, and meaning can be found in everyday survival, in everyday dailiness.
I wrote this in response to #MeToo
...that we put one foot in front of the other, that we keep breathing in and breathing out, that we offer and accept love, that we move through our days with kindness and generosity and compassion, put food on the table, pay bills, change the bed linen, get our children to school on time, nudge them into adulthood, tend our elders (who have often/sometimes been the unkind, the cruel, the ignorant, the look the other way, the unavailable, the violent)
That we (still) laugh anddance and watch and appreciate...create, talk, draw, sculpt, invent, imagine, solve and resolve. That we make enduring friendships, wemourn, we recover our injuries...we go beyond...we go beyond that whichwas expected, that which tried to diminish us...we rose, we rise; thankyou Maya Angelou for giving us the mantra, the poetry
That still I rise ( that still we rise).
A man I loved very much has died. His name is Lester and he is responsible for the beautiful tattoos on my body.
We had separated and he found new and enduring love with Sarah Boyes, seeming happier and more invigorated with his life than ever before. He finally found the way to his art practice and had just completed a three-year fine art degree at Brighton University. He was a father to Annis Laidlaw and grandfather to her son Rowan. He was a good and true and lovely person; handsome and stylish, flawed and fallible, kind and funny. He was always engaged with trying to understand his life underpinned by a grappling with the legacy of the early death of his father.
He was a key figure in Brighton, beautifully, generously and ethically tattooing so many people either as a freelancer or when running Temple Tatu in Boyces Street or working at Holy Cow in Eastbourne. There are so many of us who have his work and legacy on our bodies.
He wore his beliefs (and his heart) on his sleeve and lived a life that honoured them, he believed in cooperative living and had little interest in money or time-keeping.
A great polymath who knew lots about lots of things with a fierce and political intelligence that wouldn't be obvious on first meeting but, like many of his qualities, would gradually reveal itself. He had an artists' eye and ear and an ability to unearth eccentric, forgotten or ignored musical treasures.
The reason for his untimely and unexpected death is unknown at the moment and I am praying and hoping that he died easily, without pain or anguish. Death is so very hard but harder when it comes unexpectedly and with such stealth; provoking thoughts of all that was and all that might have been, lost opportunities and precious memories
It is a terrible terrible loss deeply felt. My thoughts are with Sarah and Annis, his sister Karen, his mother and all those who loved him.
I will be performing in Deborah Pearson's 'Filibuster' at Somerset House this Saturday. The Filibuster is a 12 hour durational performance piece that takes place in the grand arch at Somerset House between 10am and 10pm on Saturday, September 2nd. There will be 12 performers over this period each speaking spontaneously, tackling the baggage around public discourse and women. I begin speak 19.00 - 20.00. Audience members are invited to come and go over the course of 12 hours.
In October I am performing in Any Table Any Room a new work by Jonathan Burrows & Matteo Fargion. The show is at The Attenborough Centre for Creative Arts on October 17th. More information and to book tickets here
I had the pleasure and honour to provide the sign language interpretation for Stewart Lee's marvellous show 'Content Provider'. I wrote this as I began my preparation..
I watched the stand-up comedian Stewart Lee at Brighton Dome last night. I will watch the show again tonight & Saturday and then on Sunday will be there providing the sign language interpretation for the performance. It is the first time I have attempted to find linguistic & cultural equivalence within this domain and, as with any assignment, I begin by thinking about purpose and intention...the underpinning meaning(s) and then how to find relevance, within that intention, for sign language users...terms of reference, assumed knowledge, plays on words, shared experience...what is he trying to say and why? Then the second layer of actual linguistic choices; this sign or that one, that sentence construction or that? Which will resonate with the rhythms of his speech, with the rhythms of his comedy timing? How to deal with proper nouns?
The third layer: the 'geography/geographies'...Sign language is a spatial language and worlds can be constructed in the space in front, above and beside me...topographical space and syntactic space...I can carve and place, refer and re-refer...who and what are the key players in this text? Who or what does he keep returning and why?
The fourth layer: when to pause the interpretation and allow the visual imagery/facial expression/movement carry the narrative? Is there a point in a language-heavy evening when language is no longer needed to carry the message? Is there a message?
The fifth layer: will he want to acknowledge my presence? How do I hold myself within his kingdom...Are there moments of play together?
Layer six; how do I physically prepare to deliver 2 hours of material? the best shoes? Yoga mat, water, stretching and strengthening...
Layer seven, eight, nine and beyond are all about being; being there, being present, being receptive, being ready, being prepared to fly and travel with and within the marvelous brain of Stewart Lee
May is coming to its end and I've just had a birthday. We performed 'Can I Start Again Please' at the Brighton Festival and also at Mayfest. The show was well received, with near enough sell-out shows with appreciative audiences. At the beginning of the month I resurrected 'Still Life:An Audience with Henrietta Moraes' as part of the Phoenix Gallery & Studios Open Studio weekend. It was very nice to be with Henrietta again and, as always, some beautiful drawings were made during the performance.
I was remotely involved in an event entitled 'I'm Still Standing' as part of Mayfest organised by artist collective Residence. I wrote a letter read by Astrid Breel and that reading can be seen here
From June 6th Can I Start Again Please begins a two-week run at Battersea Arts Centre. I feel huge pressure to make the run a success in terms of audience numbers and it is all hands on deck to make that happen.
I am currently preparing for the tour of 'Can I Start Again Please' and looking forward to being part of The Brighton Festival, May Fest, the programme at North Wall Oxford, The Arc Stockton, Salisbury Playhouse and Chichester University. More dates are being confirmed for the Autumn and we are hoping that our inclusion in the international showcase 'caravan' will allow the show to be seen beyond the British Isles.
I am starting work on my new work for 2017, which has been commissioned by Battersea Arts Centre. I will be in residence at BAC during the run of 'Can I Start Again Please' developing the work I was a participant in the MAKE residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland in February which kick-started my thinking. More soon including (I hope) a title.
I am co-directing a new work with dancer Antonia Grove/ProbeProject entitled 'Now You See It'. There will be three preview performances (June/July) that conclude the initial creation period.
Now You See It is a dialogue between wonder and reason, reality and imagination, and presents the internal universe of a woman reconsidering her strategies for survival. It’s about navigating the relationship between visibility and absence; imagining scenarios that have never happened; interrogating facts, unravelling answers, thinking big, looking at the small and deciding what to trust and hold on to.
Can I Start Again Please has been successful in gaining Grants for the Arts funding to tour 'Can I Start Again Please'. We will begin at the Southbank Centre on February 6th and 7th and the tour will also take us to Battersea Arts Centre for a two-week run from June 6th - 18th. We will also perform in Brighton, Manchester, Bristol, Salisbury, Oxford, Stockton and Chichester. Details of booking tickets can be found by clicking here
During the run at Battersea Arts Centre in June, I will be in residence for the full two weeks to contemplate my new work which has a working title of 'the lengths we go to'. Prior to that I will spend 8 days as a participant in the MAKE residency facilitated by Theatre Ireland Forum and hosted at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig,
I have been asked to be part of the Royal Court's Big Idea, a new strand of work at the Royal Court, offering audiences radical thinking and provocative discussion inspired by the work on stage. A new play by Caryl Churchill will open on 21st January and I am writing a 10 minute work to be shown after 'Escaped Alone' on February 23rd. I will be performing the work with actor Caroline Hunt.