Fragmented minds at work seeking to find the complete narrative of their experiences…. 18 years ago I wrote a play called ‘Electra-Fying Lipstick’. I was studying for my Masters in Theatre Studies at the time when an opportunity to enter a creative writing competition came up at the University. At that time I was just discovering rule-breaking ways to create theatre and I was suddenly given permission to write in a way that felt so normal to me, and yet unconventional to the status quo. That was my first play. I won the competition.
I went on to teach theatre for 15 years in secondary & primary schools, exploring hundreds of ways with my willing, hungry students, to tell a story, to get to the heart of it, to manipulate the content, sequencing and presentation of the narrative and how to affect your audience, emotionally & intellectually.
I found myself here, now, in the midst of writing my own solo show, revisiting my understanding and intentions for a piece of theatre, and remembering insights past. I am still asking the same questions…..
What are audiences expecting?
What is conventional vs unconventional theatre?
How can we strategically manipulate the presentation of events?
Where do I fit in?
How can I use theatre to tell stories about personal journeys?
I once discussed in an essay what the theatre-going public might expect from a story. Would they be expecting a ‘sense of events and actions which succeed each other according to a causal or developmental logic?’ (Counsell, 1996) Do they always want realism? A naturalistic piece ensures that meanings are fixed and accessible in their portrayed contexts and accepted as a kind of truth validation. When finished the audience can go home, undisturbed, devoid of cognitive dissonance, secure in their unrocked boats, going back to eating cake and talking about the weather!
I don’t write like that.
Conventions make no sense to me.
Where theatrical convention physically separates the performers from the audience, cultural experience and ideological discourse unites them in the coding and decoding of a performance. Interestingly we live in times whereby the Trump-inspired fascination with Narcissism is teaching us about the slipperiness of boundaries, the mirroring of our shadow, the quest to go within and desperately try and prove we have humanity at our core lest we be likened to the ugliness at play. Can this be boxed up neatly into a narrative for theatrical consumption? I wonder if these times can open us up to receive Art in ways we never thought of before. We have begun to deconstruct all that has masqueraded as truth in our social sphere but have we begun to deconstruct the masquerade of our own ego and masks covering our limiting beliefs. The masks we wear to fit in. The voices we use to speak the narrative of conformity.
Having embarked on a deep journey to heal my own mental health in these last 18 years, amidst the stigma at play in our society, I have worn many masks and spoken with many voices. My natural state of being was to flip between selves to survive. A chaos within concealed by a constructed identity without.
As I write my show I am drawn to present the chaotic unreadability of the ‘unspoken self’, the sounds, rhythms and synchronic experiences of the senses of the body. As a survivor of emotional trauma my personal narrative is not stored in one place. Instinctually I knew this when I wrote my first play with it’s disjointed scenes, snippets of dialogue which forced the audience to fill in the gaps and presentation of images that provoke a non-verbal, visceral response. Now I know what happened to me and I have been able to draw together the fragments in a conscious and compassionate way. I have integrated all the voices within.
Voice is a presentation of 3 parts of the self, with their stories interwoven, presented in a way where you the audience must switch your attention from the emotional response to the intellectual reflective position, back and forth, whilst at times being able to sooth your own conflictions in the music of the Blues.
Voice emphasises the individual’s world, in whatever form it arrives.
It is at once a starting point for enquiry into the workings of a compromised mind.
It is not what you might expect.
It is even quite funny at times!
I invite you on this journey as I reveal the 3 characters in their development through this blog.
I invite you to begin exploring the parts of your own self that need a voice.
I further invite you to offer your presence at the show on May 28th 29th 8pm, Latest Music Bar, Brighton, to see how you, with your unique perceptions, can deconstruct and summarise what I present.