Saturday, 27 September 2014

Chapter 37: Space to Rehearse - A Life Less Simple

"They're apparently such delicate, fragile creatures, these petunias, but they have a terrible resistance."

Tennessee Williams, "The Case of the Crushed Petunias"

This week I went with a couple of friends back to Jackson's Lane to see a one-act piece, a cabaret musical, called "The Liberation of Colette Simple".  Staging the musical was the brainchild of the unstoppable force that is Nathalie Carrington, who owned the title role.  It is based on a Tennesse Williams'  "The Case of a Crushed Petunias", billed as a lyrical fantasty, where an act of vandalism shocks Mrs Simple out of her straightforward Stepford existence and propels her beyond the safety of her shop's four shop and double row of petunias to Life outside in all its rich complexities.  We hope.  The ending is ambivalent.   For Lynn Gardner's review in The Guardian of "this plucky experiment... that brings together a multiplicity of distinctive voices" (and, I would add, accents) click here.

This is Spatfeather Theatre's first production, and the fact that Jacksons Lane is supporting this fledgeling company, doesn't surprise me. Over summer its "Transmission" programme (click here) has supported the development of the works-in-progress of six circus theatre companies, giving them the space of a week-long residency, and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have seen four of them in action. I have seen StumbleDance Circus explore the psychology of climate change, Circumference examine the intimacy and fragility of relationships, Inverted look at the calculation of space as a real balancing act and You Need Me, children's storytellers, combining puppetry and a triplet on trapeze to chart the fortunes of a disappearing circus.  It is incredibly exciting to see a project in development, and to hear the artists discuss their ideas and describe its potential. As luck would have it, there was a question and answer session in the bar following Colette Simple as well.  

These are experiences I value as a stay-at-home mother with a thirst for conversation beyond pushchairs and playgrounds.  Although the playground is where it all starts, a fact that was brought home to me this week when my son was describing a game of hoops he and some mates had been inventing as they went along.   Working out the rules together, exploring the boundaries, and pushing them, as free spirits do. A chance conversation on Twitter with poet Paul Cree brought home this point. 

Check out Paul Cree on soundcloud (click here)
I had started following Paul recently when a tour of the Battersea Arts Centre had reminded me of the superb 1-to-1 theatre London Stories there last year. Paul was one of about 30 performers who had a two-minute story.  His rhythmic pace transported me to a Millwall match, and finally, football, the vibe, I got it. So looking him up on Twitter I was chuffed to see (if gutted to miss) that he has been in a double-bill A Tale from the Bedsit and 3 Mile Radius with Talia Randall at RichMix. Talia (listen to her on soundcloud click here) came onto my radar back in spring through her collaboration with aerial rope specialist Maddie McGowan funnily enough, now part of the Stumble project, in a much-lauded performance called "Expectation" at the Roundhouse's CircusFest in Spring.

Talia Randall and Maddie McGowan in Expectation at CircusFest, The Roundhouse

Anyway,  Paul's mention on Twitter of a boy on a bus busy writing his homework, with a "Go on son", made me think of encouraging my own son scribbling away, while also prompting my counter-recollection of skiving homework and forging my mother's signature to sign it off while on my school bus.   I was eventually caught out by a fiercely strong Southern Irish nun, Sr Jospeph-Clare.  Who luckily also had a sense of humour.  I was 7 or 8 at the time. Still, being at a convent school there was a lingering touch of guilt involved, the vestiges of which have now been evaporated thanks to Paul's unwitting absolution, remarking that it's the ones that don't try it (on) that worry him.  And that's the point about life, isn't it?  Skiving, surviving, pushing buttons, challenging limits, seeing what works and, when you fall flat on your face, dusting yourself off and learning from it.  

And to be honest, this week, I've felt like a crushed petunia, petal.  At my father-in-law's funeral at the weekend, I found that each new mourning carries the remembrance and accumulative weight of previous losses.  And I've been seeing death everywhere, the hearse in rehearse even.  It's like the  first-time pregnant Mum, who will suddenly find herself clocking all the varieties of pushchairs in the supermarket aislse, or a Harry Potter muggle starting Hogwarts who finds a whole new world, hitherto invisible, revealing itself. But like the petunias, I too have this "terrible resistance". My vantablack (click here) mood has found expression and renewed my harp-playing. Ironically, focussing on a piece called "Habanera Gris" ("Grey Habanera") by Alfredo Rolando Ortiz, my mood is lightening. Together my son and I have taken up the 100 day challenge, practicing our own musical instrument every day, for an achievable five minutes at least.  And what happens when those 100 days are up?  Well, we'll see where it gets us, and then start all over again...  

This is ultimately what I'm aiming for:

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