Although I have been a little absent from this research blog for several weeks, I can assure you that I have been working hard to create the ‘performative’ aspect of the result of all this thinking and pondering.
This result, I have decided to call “Days like These” and it will debut on Monday 16th January at York St John University as part of my final examination for a MA in Performance.
As a little treat, here are some of the images taken by Elfi Childs – I can highly recommend her work if you’re ever in need of a photographer.
I will be stood on stage, all of the issues will have been resolved, such is theatre, ‘the show must go on’.
I seem to have made a piece of theatre which has both acting ‘proper’ and performing ‘contemporary’ styles in it.
I will admit to being very afraid, and slightly cross at myself.. I can never just make anything simple… I am afraid because I don’t believe I can ‘act’, I feel like I’m going for an audition, I am massively out of my comfort zone and very worried about fucking it up – everyone knows that performance is infinitely easier because if you fuck up its much easier to cover.
… I feel like I need to find the shoes, build a character, know where they’ve been when they enter the stage and also know where they’re going when the leave….
I am always keen to make eye contact, to see my audience, tell them a story, make sure they’re watching…. when the 4th wall is up it’s so much harder. I feel stupid, pretending. It feels like hard work ‘being’ someone else…. wishing I had done that degree in acting, although without the degree in performance I wouldn’t be here, making my ‘own’ work.
It’s going to be a long week, but in 7 days and 45 minutes I will be able to breathe a sigh of relief, for better or worse, the show must go on.
Thankfully I have faith in process and in theatre, a show in the right order, with the right words in the right place, with the right tone and pace will show itself. If I just keep on looking for it.
I think I am making a ‘play’ though, or at least recycling one, I have started to envision the action as divided into thirds; set up – deconstruction – resolution…. I think I will use this format for the evenings re-write… praying my mini-dv camera holds up – it refused to close with the cassette tape in today – it most definitely needs replacing, just hoping it will cease to function a week today and not tomorrow.
What is love?
I am struggling to remember.
I have these diaries and journals where I speak frankly and painfully about this love I had and the pain, I remember feeling it like I should, I remember writing the entries conscious of how similar to the films it felt.
I can’t remember this love anymore and I read my diaries snorting with contempt for my innocence and naivety. Perhaps in reality it is my shame and lack of understanding which dismisses these experiences, perhaps its the unspoken knowledge that I am bitter and pragmatic and scornful of the idea of anyone ‘needing’ anyone. My inner monologue spitting the word’s ‘for fuck’s sake, get a grip, get real… man up’. Emotions are for weak people, needing someone makes you weak and vulnerable and susceptible to pain, to be taken for a fool…. although perhaps this is the lesson I learnt in my first loves, when both betrayed me. I was 15. I fought in the way the romances on the silver screen taught me I should, I used words and guilt and back stabbing. I used every tool I was afforded as a woman scorned. In the end I’m not sure what I won, the one that lost probably gained so much more for them-self, forced to redefine and find a new path. I fought to the bitter end and then felt the need to wear the prize I had won. To justify the losses. In the tears cried by sore red swollen eyes I couldn’t see what was really at stake, maybe I remember it wrong. Now I see I fought for the wrong love. Although I had no choice, it was that or nothing. It was a tragedy. One of us had to win and in that winning everyone was going to lose. If I could change anything, and I’m not sure it could’ve played any differently, but if I could I would change the prize, I would fight for what I see now was worth saving, I would say sorry. We would both know with hindsight that a teenage boy meant nothing, our friendship was far more valuable.
Perhaps love is pain in my body and mind. That makes me sound 17 again.
There will be days and days and days like these
The play opens where it began and where it ended 10 years ago. The play opens at the end.
In reality we could be anywhere, at anytime, we are led to believe in a drama studio in a south Nottinghamshire comprehensive. It is 2001.The stage directions tell us otherwise, it is 1967. It’s is Easter, Knightsbridge.
There are 12 scenes, each in its own way a mini play. Making a whole.This is quite Brechtian, although Hare intended it to be otherwise, Mr Harnan, mostly for ease of producing a play in a school put the ‘subtitles’ back in. Each soundtrack precursing a change of scene, the black box studio is the stuff of GCSE’s and Performance Art, no pretending here. What you see is what you get.
Gemma aged 27:
In 2001 everything changed, although in truth it had begun earlier than that.
It had begun in August 1944, when Susan had stood on the top of a hill in St. Benoit, looking down at the villages below, It was the end of the war and the children were lighting bonfire’s in the village. She turned to the French farmer she was speaking to in the fields and said,
“There will be days and days and days like these”
And I was there to hear her. I was there in 2001 when Philippa Jones stood here in this drama studio, the play was ending, she was stood on a stage block, that stage block, which symbolically represented both the hill in St Benoit and a bed, as she turned to the Frenchman who was played by Phil Swift, she caught my eye.
I remember feeling ecstatic, I had never felt like that before. I can’t describe it too you, but I trust you know what I mean.
It was an awakening, a really new feeling, the first time I had felt like that.
She caught my eye and as she turned back to the audience I was there with her looking out over the fields in France.
I believed her, I knew what she meant, when she said, ‘there will be days and days and days like these’.
Years later, I found myself awaiting the drop in a field in Yorkshire, I looked for Phillipa but she wasn’t there, instead I found Susan, in truth she’s never left./ Phillipa was there, and Susan and me, as I was when I was 17.
In 2001 I was only beginning, only starting the days, which I’ve dreamed of ever since.
In terms of a play this scene should offer exposition, it should help you, the audience understand the context of the play. In truth, the context is ambiguous, in truth the context is about the time of your life.
It’s 2001 and the play opens near the end of the story. We find Susan at the end of her’s, my story is just beginning.
Act 1, scene 1, The play opens at the end of the story. We find two women contemplating a naked man who has passed out from two nembutol and 12 fingers of scotch. Susan a woman in her mid thirties, hands Alice a key and says..” You must tell my husband…. Tell him I left with nothing that was his, I just walked out on him. Everything to go”
The story opens at the end of the play, I can still hear Susan saying there will be days and days and days like these, except its not Susan saying this, its Phillippa Jones and the war has not just ended, neither are we in a field in France.
Instead we are in a drama studio in a suburban comprehensive school in the Midlands. It’s early Summer 2001, yesterday was my birthday, I am 17.
We didn’t know it, but a war was about to start. Later I’ll be sat in a pub, trying to convince a friend to leave an abusive boyfriend. Whilst we are drinking two pints of strongbow, two planes will fly into the two towers of the world trade centre. I’ll be bunking French. My friend will eventually leave her boyfriend.
“there will be days and days and days like these”
Director’s (Mr Harnon) notes on the Play:
In structure it is complex, persuing a largely linear narrative that demands the audience piece together the story from a series of disjointed scenes; Each scene working as a small play in its own right, hinting towards a Brechtian influence and structure.
Each scene a mini play…. What would they be called?
now feels new.
A fresh start
time over. again.
I know my past, I have come one full circle. I know who I was, I am resolved, answered. satisfied.
Time now for a new adventure. Time to take stock, leave the luggage, say goodbye, let go, au revoir, mais pas adieu, time to begin again.
Time for new mistakes, time again for innocence, for scars to fade, to be forgotten, for fresh eyes and optimism. Time to be on top again instead of always catching up, instead of becoming second best of feeling too old, too fat, too been there and done that.
Now is the time of our second youth, now IS the time to ‘seize the day’ to realise our ambitions, to become our dreams. I am not up a tree. I can deal with that. I grow herbs in my kitchen and eat vegetables and imagine one day I’ll stop eating meat. I’ll perhaps always be a hypocrite.
Now is the time of MY generation. Possibility is here, its ours. My youth wasn’t wasted in my early years, my potential won’t be now.
Now is a newness, a chance to BE again, a chance to ascribe myself, to aspire, to create to be. I don’t need to look back. I’ve waved goodbye…. I am waving goodbye.
Here’s to new shoeboxes, new memories. new dreams and hopes, new ideals, new lovers, new friends, new ways of being. together. alone. new me, new yous.
I want to fuck you.
I want to fuck you.
This is hard to say, imagine this audience is bigger, imagine I’m talking to more than the 2/30/100 people here.
I want to fuck you.
I want to kiss the soft skin on your neck
I want to take the cartilage in your ear between my teeth…
… and nibble
…. And bite
I want to fuck you.
I want to fuck you,
I mean you,
I want to fuck you.
I don’t care about
I want to fuck you and I don’t care what your friends might say
What my friends might say
I just want to fuck you. I need to fuck you.
…. now, here on this stage, with everyone watching,
I want everyone to know how much you turn me on. How good we feel, how real this is.
Maybe you don’t even realise it….. I like to think you’re just being coy.
I like to think you know.
I like to think you know I think we are playing a game. This game.
I want to play this game with you.
I want to believe you need to fuck me, be dirty with me, that sort of breathe fast, heavy, slow. To need to hear me whimper, moan…..
I need to believe you’ve imagined what my skin tastes like, that you’ve
thought about how I feel in your hands, how I might sound when your lips inch closer to that soft spot..
…right there on the back of my neck…..
…I need to believe you know.
I want to fuck you….
Yet if we ever did, this moment…
Would be gone.
I feel like, as if I were researching anything else, I need to understand the context of the piece, culturally. So I put ‘December 2006’ into Google (a tried and tested method for cultural research of course), which in turn produced this gorgeous little sentence, courtesy of wikipedia:
December 2006 was the twelfth month of that year. It began on a Friday and, 31 days later, ended on a Sunday.
What a delicious sentence all round. Let’s read it again, or perhaps even say it out loud if you dare….
December 2006 was the twelfth month of that year.
It began on a Friday,
And 31 days later,
Ended on a Sunday.
hmm m like an internet poem too good not to share.
A thought just occurred to me, that I don’t really cry anymore.
I cried lots, then and I had lots to cry about.
I remember not being able to cry for months, I remember desperately trying to cry, to feel anything at all.
I feel now, but I don’t cry. Somehow I’ve grown out of it, or thought that maybe I should have…. I throw tantrums and cry, but I don’t cry because I feel, only because I want….. is that the same thing?
I didn’t really cry when we ended, I sobbed for myself, maybe for us, momentarily but then, in realisation that I wasn’t feeling what I was crying for, I was crying quickly and hard, and then over. gone. next. move on. pick yourself up. I am still angry. I am still very angry at things that happen every single day. I laugh at myself. If I didn’t I’d probably break something……. ‘but then I’d only have to clear up the mess…. and there is so much mess and there’s only me who can clear it up’….. (a nice cup of tea, paraphrased, 2008)
On the away weekend, something meant so much to someone they couldn’t say the words, instead they cried at the table, I don’t know what that means.
Maybe that’s why I sobbed, touching a dry stone wall. Maybe that feeling of the world rushing into my soul, overwhelming me made me close my eyes, facing the sky, feeling the rain on my face and hearing the sound in me and the world around me beating whilst I sobbed for nothing at all.
Me then, me now. ‘I don’t do vulnerable’. Maybe I still need to cry.
It began with an image, this is how it should begin, even though this is how it ended this is what I remember
I am not happy with the final section, for me its a performance in 3 parts and the last section doesn’t sit quite right, doesn’t fit.
The final image is the only salvageable thing…. the rest is badly spoken stories, struggling with humour to mask the trauma of this
Brown hair, green eyes and a tendency to have to go a little bit further than everyone else
What does that even mean? How can you ask me to speak these words now? Don’t you know who I am? Don’t you realise who you become and how difficult it is for me to speak the stories you wear like a prize, like your identity, this is who you were, this isn’t who I am. Except I am, I am a woman, am I still a girl?