Will I carry this with me?
This is a quote I love. Have always loved.
I ask of each performance: will I carry this event with me tomorrow? Will haunt me? Will it change you, will it change me, will it change things? If not, it was a waste of time..
-Tim Etchells, Certain Fragments
I am thinking a lot about this quote a lot tonight. I am sitting on a train on my way to Penrith to prepare for a performance of CHIP. It’s a show involving me and my Dad we first made 9 years ago for Arches Live and we are now restaging it as a charity fundraiser for my brother Sam’s charity as it is now 20 years since he died.
I am feeling a lot of different things this week. I have nerves as big as I have ever had for a long time – down in the pit of my stomach – right where I can’t reach them. I am a little taken aback by this milestone and can’t believe at once how long it has been and how short the time feels. I am overwhelmed by the love and support of my community and the fact that we have been sold out for weeks now. This week I have been ratty with my partner and impatient with my children. I have been short and to the point and critical and found myself staring out of windows and bursting into tears at random moments. This is how big this performance feels to me. The extent to which it haunts me. Just how much it matters.
When we first made CHIP Tashi and I said we needed to do something really close to home in order to feel the weight of what it is we always ask of those individuals and families that work with us to make shows. We needed to know just how it felt to offer ourselves in this way. To contribute our own personal histories in order to better understand something at the heart of what it means to be human. To know the process from the inside. And we did. I did.
I learned how hard it is to be so honest and so open. How big the littlest things can feel under the microscope and how weird it can be to talk about love with the people you love the most. I also learned about how, sometimes performance can be the ultimate love letter. And how standing up next to someone you care deeply about and owning up to the sheer complexity of it all can be completely exhilarating and liberating beyond belief.
It is so useful for me to remember these things right now. If me – a theatre maker who has been doing this type of thing for over 15 years can feel this vulnerable and this fragile on stage then how might the men and boys in OLD BOY be feeling? Half-way through the process as we are now. Just under a month until opening night. What is their experience?
Rehearsals are so exciting just now. Charged. We are all bound up in this exploration of love and masculinity and change and ageing and we are all feeling it. Each week the creative team leave feeling both drained and bursting with the size and shape of the conversations we are having. It feels once so big and so small all at once. I am impressed and grateful for the honesty of the stories and the questions being offered by the men and the boys and just how deep they are allowing themselves to go. I can see how hard that is. I can appreciate the emotion that comes when you excavate your history to understand the present and when you talk about the past and the future all at once.
This is a brave thing and not for the faint hearted. When you try to explain yourself and try not to worry about it all making sense. When you claim what is true for you in order to connect with others. In order to offer a dialogue and see what comes back.
As I sit here on this train tonight going right back to the place where it all began, I feel I know exactly what we are asking. Exactly what the cost.