Head Above Water

We went to the seaside today just because it was nice and sunny and we wanted to.

I feel a bit stuck. Like my feet are sort of wedged in the sand and it’s gone between my toes and I’m wiping and cleaning and washing and the sand isn’t moving. I haven’t blogged much this year, if at all. One small messy review of Girls and Boys. I have also written one review for Noises Off. I’m about to do a press night review for Exeunt. Have written a couple of things for zines. Trying to stretch some muscles. My head is buried in an essay right now, an essay of mostly overblown metaphors and kind of ridiculous thoughts. 

I realised that I love things quite deeply and it is only when I love something that I write. I kind of think of everything I write as a little segment of my soul that’s carved out and placed on a dinner table for people to spit back out if they don’t like it. If they don’t understand it. If it’s actually just a bit undercooked.

Confidence knocked a little bit lately but also gained as well. Showing writing, hiding writing, sharing writing. Letting myself wear those tight trousers that hug my waist. Should probably be writing more – taking every opportunity to tell people exactly what I think because they should care exactly what I thought and it matters it matters it matters. So often coming out of shows ready to write reviews, but the words don’t get written. Sitting down to write starts to feel like the tide going out – all the words are being sucked away and I can’t catch them fast enough. I have really tried to not let rejection get to me, in all the ways it shows its ugly head, but yet it still seemingly sleeps under my bed at night, ready to wake me in the morning to remind me it exists. Stuck, stuck, stuck.

A friend’s lyrics sort of play back in my head, ‘She played a song at the foot of my bed / I don’t know where it came from / But it touched the base of the huge mountain she’s trying to scale’. Her lyrics are much better than that, but I don’t have the memory to conjure them. Dad says I analyse things when I feel them, like really feel them. Which is true. I’ve stopped caring so much about mark schemes and more about how I can find room to lodge another writer inside my heart. Reading endless essays about writing and crafting and learning and it’s helping piece by piece but I’m finding it hard to make a whole. Not sure what shape it takes yet. Not sure if my body my soul fits into that shape yet.

(I’m being quite purposefully poetic. It makes it easier to impress people.)

Still sort of stretching my muscles. Moving my toes around in the wet sand. I’m waiting for the tide to come back in. It has to, because the moon pulls it back.  Whatever I show you is not perfect, and it is not professional. But it is me, trying. I have to let it go a little bit too. Not everything is world shattering, life altering, career ending, race finishing, prize giving, apocalypse causing. 

We went to the seaside today just because we wanted to and I think I should probably just write because I want to and because it’s nice and sunny and I enjoy it a lot, even when it is hard.

 

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a negation of happiness (Girls and Boys review)

Girls and Boys

by Dennis Kelly

What happens to me, to us (maybe, maybe not you, but me, definitely me) inside that room is absolute and complete destruction. We are, she is, I am torn up from the inside out, or perhaps from the outside in. 90 minutes in and she has excavated her annihilation, and she emotionally annihilates us in the process.

Carey Mulligan holds us tight to her chest in Girls and Boys. The words hit us like darts, each sharp and knowing in its entirety. Every ounce of stage time is savored. She darts around us, scoping us out. Testing the water. Dipping her toe in. By the end, she’s pushed us all the way in and I’m not sure if my vision is obscured because of the water in my eyes or because the lights have been making me stare in the same place for too long. Lyndsey Turner directs a production that simmers. It’s a pot that takes 90 minutes to boil. All this violence sizzles at the corners of the stage, the bright strip lights illuminating and containing it in each break. It is held far away from us at first. The violence hides behind the sofa and takes its sweet time, waiting to bite down on the edges of our hearts. We know it’s coming. Kelly is nothing if not predictable. His love of humanity’s ability for ultimate, catastrophic love and atrocity sits neatly in the parameters of this script.

So we know that this violence, this unexplained violence, is coming. But for now, it’s a love story. It’s sweet and funny. Really funny. It speeds along. We’re interrupted by Carey in the living room with her kids. The set shifts. It’s almost too real to be realistic at this point, and the direct address monologues feel much more genuine than the high ceilinged apartment.

I think a lot about violence

She says it and our tone shifts. Kelly’s script is one long experiment. Make them laugh and laugh and turn to each other in their seats and smile at the familiarities of her, her life, her love, her children. Violence isn’t allowed in. It’s only on the television, or in the newspaper, on our phones, in our books, on our stages. It’s not for us though. We don’t. We don’t. Experience it. We don’t ever, really Know It.

Until we do. It’s not about gender except that it is, so much, so crucially, so deeply about gender and really about men. About the fear, the paralysing fear that I cannot ever truly know you. When I stand opposite you, my husband, the one I have said I will live with, love with, care for, comfort, forever, I don’t really know you at all. You aren’t allowed to be desensitised, not this time. This fiction has made me angry. Like fuming, cheeks hot, breathlessly angry. How the fuck have we let this happen. How the fuck can you stand there and tell me that I am not allowed to believe her. It’s not even a question for me. Of course I believe her. I believe her because I know how terrifyingly easy it is for this to be me. To be who I am, who I become. I don’t know if I would be able to hold onto love, to compassion, in the same way she does.

10/12/17

I’m a student so my life functions in three month intervals with some space in between. This one has had a couple of Weird clouds hanging over it. This is a bit about thinking back and also about looking forward – so basically exactly what New Years is (duh eve)

Just as I was coming back to university all the Harvey Weinstein stuff started coming out. I haven’t spoken very publicly about any of this, even to my very small following, because it all feels a bit much.

still too wary to talk, still wanting to support, still feeling vulnerable, still needing some kind of reassurance, still feeling rage, still feeling inevitability, still detaching, still cutting myself off from it

I spoke to my mum about it a bit. I have had a few tentative online chats about it. Don’t want to get stuff wrong, but still it feels like the cloud has gotten heavier. That sounds…really bad. What I think I mean is, it’s always been in my thoughts. It’s always been in lots of people’s thoughts because it’s everyday and everywhere. Now it’s in Guardian articles and hashtags. Not a bad thing. Just a heavier, denser cloud.

The rain is coming

So I’ve really felt that cloud this term. It’s on my phone every single day. When I lost my phone for a while, it didn’t leave, but I did stop seeing it. And even though my mental health hit rock bottom, at least for a moment the tweeting and the articles and the debates and the misogyny was hidden. When I came back to it, I felt more angry, and more capable.

I feel, a little bit, powerful. I feel, a lot, empowered. I feel, most of all, supported.

I filter my feed so that there’s no cis men.
It’s the rest of us.
And we all love each other so much.

I see folk who I look up to, and have done for this whole year

Maddy, Meg, Lyn, Vicky, Ava, Emily, Alice, Anna, Clara, Helen, Joesph, Evie, Ella, Mitski, Anya, Alice, Kate, Safura, Kia Yee, Anna, Lilith, Florence, Esme, Steffi, Ellice, Hebe, Bryony, Emma, Cara, Helen, Hetty, Arifa, Gabbi, Kath, Charlotte, Hannah, Amy, Stella, Olivia, Selina, Zarina, Gabrielle, Leanne, Meg, Ciara, Annie, Izzy

We are a collective forcefield. Lots of those names don’t know who I am – that’s okay. It’s about visibility. I think.

This is messy. I hope I don’t make anyone angry – this is one of those posts that feels fragile. Feels tired. Sorry if it’s not quite right.

But then there’s also like another, brighter cloud which tails off of the heavy one. I think because of the people who have come forward about being assaulted and harassed, I have learned to look at the women and non binary people in my life and love them a whole lot more, and learn from them, and admire them, and be there for them, and open myself up to them a bit more

I am constantly filled with pride when I look at all of them. Even if they are far more successful than me, and run theatres and magazines and write plays. I’m proud of myself too. I published at least one blog post every month this year. I’ve never done that before!

I’ve also gone through some real shit since September. I dipped super low, and then I came back out of it. I’ve hurt people but I have also been hurt. What goes around comes around. I let myself be vulnerable in ways I haven’t let myself be before – I’m still learning when that’s useful and when it’s damaging. It’s a slow process. It’s a growing cloud.

I am also very lucky. I know that. Will never not know that. I hope next year I can give and help and promote better.

Allow communication. Cut out negative people. Allow forgiveness. Take no shit. Value yourself. Raise each other up. Give back. Take time. Be generous. Share carefully.

This isn’t meant to be life-affirming.

Sorry.

Stop apologising.

Right. Yes.

Good and Bad eh. Have done and written some of my best stuff this year – theatrical and not theatrical. In 2018 I will improve and grow along with everyone beside me. I absolutely hate New Years, but this felt needed. It’ll probably be mostly the same next year. I’m excited to see new shows and listen to new music (Vampire Weekend LP4 LETS GO) and write new plays and blog posts

Okay cool, this is cheesy and shit now but !! Cathartic.

See ya in 2018

“all the shitty shit” eve and ava have a very Trash conversation about Victory Condition and other things

we had a conversation and then we recorded it. enjoy x

the beginning

A: Okay you start

E: I thought about a really intelligent question

A: Oh My God

E: On the bus, I forgot my headphones so I was like right well gotta think about something

A: Okay go on

E: So. I think, there is a disparity between (in the show), what we see, what we hear, and what is true

A: Oooooh that’s very clever

E: Mic Drop

A: Oooo you’re so clever

E: But I was thinking about like, when you like see a show, do you like, when you remember it, do you think about what you heard, or about what you see

A: Yeah no there’s that really famous quote by someone and there like … Eve laughs … What?

Both laugh, indiscernible stuff, probably just weird noises

A: There’s a really famous quote by someone

E: By um by Ava Davies?

A: No no someone was like “Oh you never actually remember um, any of the lines of a show, which I don’t think is true, but you know, you don’t remember any of the lines”

E: Yeah we’re actually writers so

A: Yes I have a writer’s brain

Both laugh, again

A: No but like you never remember the words you remember the images that you see um I don’t know I don’t think that’s true

E: I don’t think that’s true but I think when I was, cuz when I was thinking about this I was thinking oh I definitely just remembered what I’ve seen, and then I was thinking about all the shows I’ve seen and I’ve liked, and I think about what I see with them as well

A: Yeah

E: Like with um Anyone’s Guess I just think the two girls

A: The images yeah

E: And the pillow, and like, that’s what I think

A: Yep yep, and then like the backpack, and the lights,

E: yep

 

eve n ava diss their friends and also brecht

A: I literally just think Victory Condition has the best beginning and ending of any show

E: So true

A: Ever.

E: Yeah.

A: It’s excessive, but like I’m a real sucker for shows that like, when the actors turn to the audience and they’re like ‘Hello.’ Like when they walked in and they were doing all, what were they doing, just like unpacking their shit and then they just looked and it was like (an un-writable sound made here, best way to describe it is :O ) Like oh my god. Everything’s Broken.

E: Yeah, it’s all broken down

A: It’s like it’s really simple as well

E: Yeah. It’s so simple.

A: And then I feel like if, like, a student did that, I would be like…whoa you’re breaking the fourth wall whoa

E: True though, like if you saw like someone here do that you’d be like

A: Yeah, I’d be like,

E: Yeah seen it before babes

A: /Bit Obvious

E: /Seen. It. Before

A: /It’s a bit Brecht

E: Okay, you’ve read a bit of Brecht, we get it

A: We get it.  But I don’t know why it was so effective or like, but I guess also because maybe the tone, like it was delivered / monotonously

E: And also like, Downstairs at the Court you expect a Super Naturalistic show

A: / Yeah

E: That’s like, it’s very like, Oh my God it’s going to be like a family drama, what’s gonna happen, and they’re like ‘Hello’ and you’re like ‘Oh my God’

A: Oh my Goood

E: ‘This one’s different.’

 

eve n ava just talk about the end again, cuz they’re basic

E: The ending is really interesting because he wrote like, loads of different endings

A: Yeah. I haven’t actually read the ending yet, like the text

E: No, well I gave mine to someone else,

A: Did you?????

E: Yeah I gave mine to George straight away, so he still has it, and then I have to give it to Ciara

A: Oh God

E: So it’s like, I’m not gonna read it for ages. But I think that’s good

A: No that is good, cuz I like, yeah, I was, I didn’t want to read it straight after I’d seen it, cuz I just thought the ending was so precise. It’s really interesting I wonder like how much that was him and how much it was Vicky

E: Yeah true

A: You know?

E: I think he didn’t have an ending for a while. So maybe that was the ending they came up with in the rehearsal room and then he wrote a different ending and they were like, No we prefer our rehearsal one. I would fucking love that. I would not put it past Vicky.

A: I know

E: Ugh I love her

A: She’s amazing

 

eve n ava talk about crying, because they both cry All The Time

E: I went into Victory Condition being like I know I’m going to Love it, halfway through I was like, I don’t Like it, and

A: Oh Really

E: And when I came out I was like I Love it

A: That’s interesting

E: So weird

But I cried twice in that fucking show.

A: When did you cry??

E: Because the writing was so good

A: Which bits did you cry in?

E:  … See like I don’t even remember

A: That’s really interesting that you don’t remember

E: I think it was like partly when she started talking about the girl

A: Yep

E: In the bathroom

A: Yep

E: That was really sad

And then. But I almost didn’t cry because it was sad I cried because it was like Oh My God that’s so beautiful

A: Yeah it’s written like

E: I mean obviously the situation is not beautiful that’s a horrific thing to say but like

A: No no sure sure but it is written

E: Very nice

 

eve n ava love Chris Thorpe ❤

E: I mean we said it when we came out but it was like this is the play we all want to write

A: Oh my god, Completely

It’s so simple

E: Yeah.

 

eve n ava say smart things

A: It’s interesting that you say it’s about what happens in one moment, because it’s also kind of like, The Moment, generally, like the sort of

Both: The Global Moment

A: But you know do you know what I mean it’s like, it’s more like the feeling,

Because it was just that feeling of complete terror

E: Yeah

A: And like, instability

And it was just like, Oh my God

E: Someone tweeted that it was like a 55 minute panic attack

A: OH THAT’S SO CLEVER

E: Because it just built, and I think that’s maybe partly why I cried the second time because I was just so On Edge, and I was like I just need it to be over

A: Thing is whenever, I was really apprehensive going in because

with Chris Thorpe I’m always going in with Oh my God I’m going to be so Traumatised

E: Yeah exactly

A: And it actually wasn’t

E: I feel like it was a weirdly slow burn show for a 55 minute show

A: So slow burn

But also like I knew from the beginning like when he started talking about being the sniper like I knew it wasn’t going to talk about the minute when he hits her.

E: Yeah

A: Um But that just made it worse?!

Because I knew there wasn’t going to be any like actual violence

E: Almost like gratification, like you don’t get that

A: Yeah yeah you don’t get the final sort of like

Yeah

E: Yeah you just have this Horrible build up

A: Which is the worst bit

 

eve n ava like breaking rules

E: But then it’s really weird because the woman’s story isn’t like this direct contrast, it’s a completely different thing? It’s this weird like frozen

A: A whole other

E: Moment, and then it’s got this Weird Sci-fi thing where she sees into the moment and it’s like Whaaaat is going on

A: I was so amazed

It was just like, it broke like, all the rules of it, for me. Which was really fun, it was just like

It was very freeing

He just sort of did it

Just went with this completely inverse, not even inverse, just like completely torn apart narrative of the woman that’s in no way related, not in any way related to, the man’s moment.

E: And I think people like, look for connections and they’re like what’s the connection, What’s the Theme here, and it’s like Well there isn’t one

A: But that’s also probably what it’s about like looking for meaning. And like so many shows are like about like Looking for Meaning in a World Without Connection, you know like

E: True, yeah. He did it very well though because it was like there is literally no, not that there was no meaning, I feel like that’s a disservice, but that

A: But like everything is so atomised

E: Yeah exactly

How do we talk about everything at once and also, nothing?

A: Yeah, and like communicate this like, deep Despair in our hearts

 

eve n ava get stressed

E: I didn’t feel that, like, not sad, but I didn’t feel that Hopeless throughout it I just felt, quite like stressed out,

A: Yeah no it was stressful. It was a really stressful watch.

And I guess, I didn’t feel Hopeful at the end, like when he’s, when it is that ending of like, he looks up and he’s like ‘Sharon’, and they make the eye contact and the light changes, and oh I just get goosebumbs even thinking about it. But you know that’s like, I felt like quite gratified by it? Not like totally but it was just a sort of like

E: Yeah which I kind of didn’t like

A: Really?

E: I don’t really like gimmicky endings and I felt like it was a little bit like

Ooo we’ve come out of it now so we don’t need to worry about it anymore

A: Sure sure sure sure

go to avatalksabouttheatre.wordpress.com to read the second half

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jenny Holzer: SOFTER at Blenheim Palace

if he survives he’ll confirm for future generations how beauty was dying like beauty in flames  

gently we go into the night. hands clasped, umbrella up, pebbles turn. I have waited for this since I saw your words on my screen. I have waited for this since you were made visible, and they helped me keep writing. rejuvenated a love of art, of protest, of public accusation. you have been planted in my sternum for over 1000 days. here I return to you and the art. become a part of history, your history.

i ran to the one who fell wanting to take her away but she was already gone

about a month ago I went to mac in Birmingham to see jenny holzer give a talk on her art. I had seen an exhibition of her work for the first time in that gallery, two months before. we arrived far too early, and I am sweating, mostly the pores in my hands, and I wipe them continuously on my jeans. sitting the café about fifteen minutes before it starts, I see a familiar face in my eyeline. she’s familiar from phone screens and art books. as she walks away, I run up and tell Holzer that    that    I’m not sure what   I’m not too sure what I said to her.   How do you tell someone that you’ve never met that they helped you understand art and feminism and that their words founded your voice with you? you can’t. so you stumble and blush instead. she curtsies when I tell her I love her work. it’s not enough, can never tell her how much. after her talk, I ask a question and she chuckles – ‘I can’t possibly answer that in one sitting, that’s a very good question’. she smiles. I am on the edge of my cushioned seat. she hears me, she sees me. this is enough.

on the threshold he slaughters us and time

at Blenheim Palace, Jenny Holzer exhibits a piece called SOFTER. It accompanies a wider gallery installation in the palace. although I can see the glowing pink LEDs inside the huge stone palace it is too late to go in. I book the exhibition for later in the month on the way home. suddenly, the outside of the palace is lit up. we stand in the courtyard and are surrounded by words. words that jump through the rain and run under our feet to rest for half a second on the palace walls. I am shocked. I didn’t think it would be this huge, this all-encompassing. my heart lifts. I am seeing the words that hold steady in my mind, the medium that resonates around my frontal lobe. the silence is most oppressive here. the courtyard swallows noise and so no one is heard, just the occasional sound of gravel and birds.

i bandage it with the voice of reason that was not affected by proximate desolation

this is not completely true. as I stand next to a young family, a young boy and girl play and scream beside me.  their laughter carries with an odd echo. I read about Syrian children, first hand accounts of running under tables and away from bombs. I feel so acutely disconnected.

i bandage it with veins whose warm blood has not yet been spilled on the surface of our sacred soil

the happiness of being there, with holzer’s work begins to wear off as I keep reading the words. it’s interviews, poems, and prose from war veterans, soldiers, victims, children, doctors. it is   harrowing. it is so    immense. it does what it has to. with each rolling credit for bullets wounds and bomb shelters my heart falters slightly more. its dark and I search for my mum. we hold each other in the middle of the courtyard.    I am so sad.   I am so sad.    I am so helpless.    I am so complicit.

the houses on the left are burning, the houses on the right are burning

we leave the courtyard slowly. it has been two hours. the night is cold. we sip soup. this isn’t fair, and mum doesn’t want to have it, it feels weird, it feels gratuitous, it is wrong. we drink anyhow. I film the projections. after an hour or so I feel invasive.

huddled in a gateway on the side where the shadow falls, terrified he cannot become a shadow, he listens

write about war and colonialism and refugees and project it on a palace built on blood money and war victories and housed Churchill as a child.

defiance

mourning

hope

stories of massacre on stone walls

a brightly lit funeral

next to me, a woman cackles in the night. defence mechanism.

 

*italicised words are the projections i remember. they are not my words, or Jenny’s.

being a fangirl

I read this article and wanted to write something about being a fan.

I’m ten years old, sitting in the back of my parents Honda, listening to their CDs. It’s 2008. My dad has bought the Strokes, Adele, the Killers, the Fratellis, Vampire Weekend, and the Arctic Monkeys. I am still listening to Hannah Montana and I’m upset that we’re not allowed to play the new Kelly Clarkson song. The same year, my parents buy me a purple iPod. It is shiny and new and I can put all my favourite songs on it, and I don’t have to listen to their rubbish CDs.

It’s the summer of 2012, and I’m 14. I’ve left my purple iPod at home by accident and so I can’t listen to any of the music I like. Very Annoying. My dad lends me his iPod, and I find a song called Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa. We are staying in a place called Cape Cod so I think that’s pretty cool and I listen to it. What follows is the start of my teenage fangirl identity. Not a phase so much as a way of life, I think. I’m obsessed.

It’s November 2013, I’m 15 and oh boy am I excited. I found tickets to Vampire Weekend’s London show the week before they play. I don’t even have time to get properly excited because once we’ve arranged how I’ll get there and back home again, the day has arrived. I don’t get there very early because I don’t really know the etiquette of being a huge fan just yet. I’m quite near the back, but I think that’s okay. I’m quite small and not sure I’m ready for the huge speakers on the front rows. It’s my first experience of unadulterated joy and it’s my first experience of letting go. My shoulders unhunch from their clenched position up by my ears. I am surrounded (literally) by men over the age of 25 (Very Old in my 15 year old brain). They don’t scream the lyrics like I do, and they kind of edge away from me. It’s fine, I don’t really care, but one of them sighs really loudly and another few roll their eyes. It’s my first experience of being looked at like that. With such patronising contempt. But whatever, at least I’m enjoying seeing my favourite band.

I start a music blog in 2013 as well. It’s mainly so I can write up a lengthy, analytical, loving review of Vampire Weekend’s third LP. No-one really reads it. (If you want to, it’s here. I was 16, be kind).

I see them once more. It is Reading Festival in 2014. I’m crying and screaming so much that a boy asks if I want to go on his shoulders to see them. I look worried; I know what that sometimes means. He reassures me he likes boys so won’t try anything. I grin. Up in the air I float on clouds of love and joy. I feel like I know the people on stage. It’s strange but it isn’t unusual. I don’t think I have quite got to grips with how far this whole thing will go. Still happy, still judged.

As a teen, I am really one of the only people I know that loves them this much. That’s probably egotistical, but I don’t think that at this point, any of my friends have the obsessive personality that I do, and I begin to hide it. I look for comfort and community in other places. Twitter is just entering my world for the first time. I make a separate account, which doesn’t have my last name attached to it. I make friends. Girls, mostly. Girls who are like me and who cry when Ezra (that’s the lead singer of VW) comes on stage. We all in live totally different lives, in loads of different parts of the world. It is a cacophony of angst and love and passion. Again, no-one really knows it exists outside of us. And of course when we tweet a member of the band and they reply to us, nothing really feels better. It’s a rush that someone we think about on a daily basis acknowledges us.

I could intellectualise this and say we were different from the One Direction fans, because the music we listened to was better crafted, more intelligent, and unique. But that would be a betrayal. A betrayal to the fan base as a community of young women and a betrayal to all the other girls who dedicated their hearts to a different band.

By 2016, I can tell you everything and anything about this band. I can tell you that they sing about a chandelier in their third album because they feel the weight of the success of their first album which had a chandelier on it. I can tell you how many side projects the bassist has put out since 2013. I can tell you who Hannah Hunt is (a name of a track on the third album). I can tell how much they got sued for when they used a polaroid they found in their house for the second album’s cover. (They were found out when the woman in the polaroid saw her own face on her daughter’s newest CD).

When I visit New York for the first time I go on a tour of the city, guided by VWs spots and inspirations (I made the tour myself, having mapped it out weeks before). I know every word to every song and every back story so well and the city is so interwoven with their sounds and songs that it feels like home.

***

This is quite weird to write about. I don’t think it’s very interesting, but I think it is genuine and it’s a part of my life I didn’t share with many people.

I don’t think my appreciation and love of their art was any less legitimate because I was young and it was expressed in tweets and posters.

***

It’s 2017, and Vampire Weekend are maybe realising a new album, maybe not. One of the members of the band has left. My twitter account is left untouched for the most part. I’ve formed real life friendships from it. My love for music has expanded and morphed and manifested into a love for theatre.

**

I saw Father John Misty the other week, who is someone I discovered because of Vampire Weekend and I knew all the words to his songs, was quite far back, and just jumped and lost my voice and it was excellent. At the end, someone turned around and said ‘Wow you must be his biggest fan!’ I apologised because I was scared that my joy had infringed on his watching. He said ‘No it’s lovely, thank you’.

It’s a little about forming communities, a little about appreciating art, and little about sharing.

I’m quite proud of how much I loved Vampire Weekend and all those other bands back when I was 16. I’m so so happy that I waited outside venues for over seven hours. I find it hilarious and lovely that I missed the last day of NSDF in 2015 (and so missed finding out I’d won an award) to go and wait outside a concert venue on the other side of the country. I love finding fans in weird and new places (some new university friends often surprise me with similar stories of love and fandom).

As a fun side note, having moved back to my main twitter account where I talk about theatre and stuff, it doesn’t feel much different. We have created a weird little mini fan base in our twittersphere. It is so insular that I don’t think we realise it, but we are all little fangirls writing blogs and tweeting about our favourite directors. It’s good. I’ve moved into a new sphere of fangirling, one that is maybe more accepted because this fan base includes way more men, and less teenagers.

 

(also if you were wondering the gif at the top is VW winning their first grammy in 2013)

Nassim

Nassim @ The Bush

15/9/17

Each night, a new performer takes the stage for Nassim. This time it is Denise Gough, and the Bush is packed. There is a giddy feeling in the air and the audience bubbles with the idea that we will be sharing an intimate space with such a renowned actress. Already it seems on some level that tonight is not as much about Nassim Soleimanpour (our playwright) as it maybe should be. That’s not anyone’s fault, of course, it’s just a feeling I get. There’s a big group of women in front of me. They are dressed very well and all hold glasses of wine. They giggle and chat even as the lights go down. Already I’m annoyed that they aren’t so invested in this. I’m annoyed that they’re probably here for her, more than they are for him.*

Denise walks on stage to applause and an introduction and she seems nervous. Even from the outset, there are small quips and asides to the audience. She’s quick to jump on her own failings and wants us to like her. (This is emphasised when much later on, it’s revealed that the last picture on her phone is a glowing review from her last show. She jokes that even she gets insecure. I kind of feel for her in that moment and I understand her and her performance a little better)

*This all an assumption, of course. They might have been Soleimanpour’s biggest fans. I suppose my point is that it set a certain tone. For me, at least.

***

The premise of Nassim is a familiar one. The actor is unprepared and is given a script they have never seen before in an envelope on stage. Soleimnapour tricks us, but he also tricks the actor. The envelope contains one page, informing us all that the script is in fact in the hands of the playwright, who sits backstage. Denise is stuck between reading from the screen behind her and performing to us. Again, she is probably a little more vulnerable than she would like.

At various points throughout the show, the audience are one step ahead of Denise. We see the screen before she does and we spot her mistakes quicker. The script is playful, but her nervous and quick-witted persona disrupts what is ultimately a play about longing. I think this disruption is purposeful from Soleimnapour. He knows his actor will be on edge, and plays with their comfort zones, pushing them in and out of security.

***

Nassim was a deeply sad play, from what I gathered. But the audience laughed a lot.

Denise admits vulnerabilities and it is in those moments she is the most like us and without performance. Away from the stage, her nervousness subsides slightly. She opens a little more.

When she runs backstage to find him, he shares tea with her. It is a moment we aren’t allowed access to. I liked that. We see them through a screen and don’t see his face. She is less performative and I am more receptive.

How do we allow theatre to be those small moments of privacy?

How do we allow that small moment of sensitivity to be felt?

***

It was difficult to pin down a tone. I think it probably changed from night to night.

During the show I thought of Deborah Frances-White; a comedian. I thought of Tim Crouch; a writer and performer. I thought of Meera Syal, a wonderful Asian actor. How might her performance of Nassim, or White Rabbit Red Rabbit as she did at the Bush, have differed from that of the aforementioned white performers? Might it have been exactly the same?

***

I think there’s something about stories and translation and a telling. I can’t quite grasp it. There’s a lost feeling, a feeling of displacement.

There is the story through the actor, then through the physical script, then through the screen, then through the playwright, both in English and in Farsi.

I’m reminded of Tim Crouch’s An Oak Tree; a story told through a number of parallel voices.

***

Maybe the audience should have been shut out slightly more? As an English speaking audience member, I and many others in this country are afforded the luxury of knowing what we are seeing and understanding what we are being told. Sometimes it might do us some good to be dropped in the deep end (see Gecko’s The Dreamer).

I have had my English words handed to me, and it is a luxury that they can be easily consumed by the majority that will watch them, and that this country allows us to perform them.

Perhaps this is missing the point and it’s more about translation and communication. Maybe we should share in our commonalities rather than shut each other out.

I can’t stop coming back to the thought that sharing is a gift.

***

I have one friend from Iran and I have known him for close to 8 years now. We’ve grown apart recently. I didn’t know that he spoke fluently in Persian as well as English until last year. It was a huge part of his life and his identity and I never saw it or knew it. I thought of him during the show.

I hope he’s doing okay.

***

So, we circle back to Denise, to the white women in the audience in front of me, giggling, and we circle back to Nassim standing on stage speaking to his mother in Farsi. She is omnipresent and also just really fucking far away. Denise cries, and she lets go of us and the performance. Soleimnapour chuckles a little as if he knows something we don’t. The women in front of me give a standing ovation. Maybe they were more receptive than I gave them credit for.

***

Nassim always knows something we don’t, and that is one of the best things about the show. Thank you for sharing.