Off & On & lines.
After 13 months and a few weeks since being ‘in the room’ working on The Family Sex Show, and 8 months of not being in a rehearsal room at all, at the start of November 2020, we were back.
I walked to Shoreditch Town Hall, not with my bags full of props and costumes, but with face masks and anti bac and gloves and tape and, oh, and a thermometer. The whole thing felt bizarre af to be honest.
Even so, I was also obviously giddy. BACK. TO. SCHOOL.
The way The Family Sex Show (and most of ThisEgg’s other shows) is being made is a week or two’s development here and there over a number of years. That’s just the way we (usually) make things.
For context, as with a lot of other people, what we were supposed to have been doing in 2020, was finishing the show, opening it in the Autumn, and then touring it across the UK for 9 weeks in 2021. Which, after 3 years of development felt like the right next step. lol.
This isn’t a splurge about our cancelled tour though. It’s a splurge about there being a pandemic (soz), no one to lead you and being forced to value what you do. Again.
So, 1 week of development this November IRL. Wicked.
Because, for the record, I didn’t think it would actually happen, and refused to let myself believe it would in the run up. Did the risk assessments and planning and buying the face masks and anti bac and gloves and tape and, oh, and a thermometer like it was, but deep down… nah.
Anyway, none of this is important.
Halfway through our weeks development IRL, the UK went back into lockdown.
There is a pandemic.
Shoreditch Town Hall will have to shut.
There is a pandemic.
We will go home.
We will be safe.
We will try zoom.*
We will be safe.
Venues could stay open for rehearsals. Because (OBVIOUSLY) that’s not a job you can do from home.
There is a pandemic.
As a company of human people in different situations and circumstances how do we move forward?
Together? Always together.
For the first time ever, that didn’t feel possible.
And that made me angry and then sad and then angry again.
The thing is, is that…
There is a pandemic.
No one is supposed to know how to be, or, how to lead.
But someone has to.
And the thing is that if our government doesn’t, they are just
you (in this situation, me).
Nothing I am saying here is new.
None of this is what is important.
But I just want to acknowledge, once more,
The lack of clarity
The lack of thought
The lack of understanding
We need to go to work to pay rent.
And, I do think theatre is essential.
But only when we can access it safely.
This show isn’t going to have any output right now.
So I don’t feel like what I am doing right now is essential for right now.
But our ‘process’ has always been this dipping in and out thing, because, I think it means the show will be ‘better’ as a result.
This is show is going to be put on (she says).
So it needs to be what it can be when it is.
But because the output isn’t now.
It feels less justified.
Is any of this important?
I’ll remind myself
There is a pandemic.
And it’s got me
It’s got me
What I do
Why I do it
If it is worth it
I still need to
About how we move forward…
In this PANDEMIC
There is a pandemic
We’ve been more aware our our individual impacts on other people than ever. We’ve also been more aware than ever that everyone will do what they need to do.
Everyone in the room for The Family Sex Show needs to do differently. Everyone in the world needs to do differently.
That’s kind of what the whole show is about.
But the reasons for that have never been a pandemic.
Taking the choice to the group means everyone can make up their own minds.
But is that fair?
Is it fair if I make the call?
If I don’t make a call, am I just another ‘bad’ leader?
None of this is important.
I think this is me just having a bit of a tantrum. I feel like stamping my feet and shouting “it’s not fair! MUM?! IT’S NOT FAIR!!!!”
I don’t think a pandemic was ever going to be fair.
We’re all human.
And, I’m not letting anyone off the hook here Boris Johnson.
What I mean is, it was never going to be easy.
It could have been easier.
A bit more on the leading thing... I think that maybe it caught me off guard. I think that maybe, it was the first time I felt like I was supposed to be a leader. I try to make sure 'the room' works in as democratic a way as possible, as much without heirarchy as it can. I work hard to make sure I have clear producer / maker boundaries.
And this moment broke those.
The lines were unclear.
In that moment
With that choice
I took the decision to the group
And, well, I ended up crying
And, I was really disappointed in myself for that.
Again angry and again sad that something (those lines) I work hard to create and to define was forced into a situation
Beyond my control
I felt, all of 'those' things, of being 'young', of being a 'woman', of not being 'good' enough
And the line was more of a scribble (yeah)
And then I also remembered that I was also a human... needing to make my own choice in that moment, and I, personally, also didn't know what to do...
In a bizarre
A bit messed up way
It was a reminder that
We have autonomy
And even if leaders don't act the way we want them to, we can act the way we want to.
*A bit more on zoom, and more on trying
We worked on zoom.
We tried on zoom.
We worked on zoom.
We would not settle for zoom.
In rehearsals we will often do a checking in and checking out. Checking in at the beginning of the day will work in a variety of ways, but is mostly there as a moment for everyone to say/be how they are and what they need. Checking out is similar.
It felt super important to do this the week we worked together in November (during the pandemic, you remember).
When we moved onto zoom, I added a check in post lunch break too.
It felt like everyone was so far away.
And I wanted to make sure everyone was ok.
That there was no way to read the room(s),
unless the room(s) was(were) said out loud.
And, as we are all experiencing I’m sure, moods are all the more all over the place all of the time, so, yeah, good to know where people are at.
Work / rehearsals has to be / should have the option to be a place outside of your home
Away from the pandemic
And the world
And our worries
And they are bleeding in
And they always do
But on zoom
They can’t not
Checking in usually helps us air it out
Checking in we soak it up
And we start reflecting on reflecting, naturally…
Where is the line between caring and thinking and looking inside and being reflective
And being the dirty word
I n d u l g e n t
How much space to give and when to give it
The show is so about the people and being held by a group of people but at the same time we are all there to make that show
Was the thinking and talking about wellbeing not helpful to our wellbeing?
Making on zoom and wellbeing is even weirder still
Because when we make we are trying to make people feel things - that’s what theatre is about
In theatre you’re in a space together with other people
Either in rehearsals or in an audience
When you make on and for zoom
I wonder if
The knowing that that someone might be sat on their own in isolation feeling all kinds of things beyond our control already
We limit ourselves
Because our care for someone takes over
Because we know we cannot do anything afterwards
We cannot practically act on the check in
We cannot literally hold someone in a space
If it reminded me of one thing though, this show, The Family Sex Show, cannot be digital.
It must be live, offline and human.
These are difficult conversations.
And you shouldn’t have to do them alone.
We cannot work from home.
But we need to work.
People come before a project.
Their health, their safety.
We are just trying to do well at being.
But money is part of that.
So my question is genuinely, where do we go from here?
And how can we all go there at the same time?
This is not a protest. Because it is too late.
We’re making a new ‘thing’.
We’re calling it an installation, socially distanced pop up performance and film project.
But that’s quite a mouthful so we’re giving it a name; DISMANTLE.
Google says ‘dismantle’ means, “to take (a machine or structure) to pieces.”
That seems about right.
In the literal sense it’s about buildings and spaces.
Buildings are being dismantled all around us all the time.
We are pretty used to it. Mostly because they are replaced with other, often bigger, buildings.
In the even bigger, more slippery and messy sense, it’s about systems.
We can’t ‘see’ systems, so *maybe* they are harder to notice, but, some of us still try to dismantle them because they often feel harder to just get used to. When we don’t like systems… well, we want to take them to pieces.
How is much less clear.
Some of the things we’re talking about whilst making DISMANTLE:
The here and now. Covid-19. Yep. (How could we not.)
The Arts. The growing threat of the arts industry, particularly theatre, especially new theatre, and even more so devised/experimental/‘risky’ theatre.
The arts is always precarious. I think you can tell a lot from a country in the way it treats it’s artists. I don’t have any facts to back that up (soz), but I think it’s true. It’s about the importance it places on culture, connection and community. Its architecture, and how welcome it makes you feel.
The Artists. The people that make up the arts.
Especially freelancers. How we can continue to collaborate, to stay creative. To do what we do. And be paid for it too.
The Koppel Project. How they have just lost a building that gave over 70 artists studio space in Soho. How that building is going to be torn down to make space for yet another luxury hotel. (Hotels versus individuality slash identity). How Koppel are often the people to fill buildings with artists temporarily, while other people decide what’s going to happen to the building long term (because it can’t possibly just be an artists studio for more than a couple of months or years).
So, I guess we’re also talking about buildings & permanence.
Redundancies. People being pushed out of buildings.
People. Where they go now.
How (and if) we are valued.
Weeds. Growth. Belonging.
Space. Who owns space. Who decides who is allowed in (and who isn’t).
When space is given (or taken away).
How spaces can be repurposed. When that’s positive (and when it isn’t).
What happens to a space when it gets turned into something else.
The feeling of a space - its vibe.
The history that is somehow held within four walls and how we try to erase it by knocking it down.
The spaces we love. The buildings that are used to being full of people and aren’t.
The empty spaces. The shops that aren’t shops anymore, the cafe’s that aren’t cafe’s anymore.
The spaces that need to be filled with life.
For a group working in touring theatre who usually/used to move about the country and it’s various spaces almost daily but was made to stay still, in one space, I’m not surprised we’re wondering about it really.
Geography. What the landscape of the country will look like - who will have ‘lost’ and who will have ‘won’.
Who gets to be part of the conversation, and how.
I’ll stop throwing words around now.
We are being given space to collaborate, create something visual, and make as much noise as we want to. This is filling us with hope and maybe it will you too.
Buildings might be disposable, but artists are not.
Let’s begin to DISMANTLE.
Black Lives Matter
Black Lives Matter.
I will stand with you better.
I haven’t done enough.
I won’t give up.
I will give and grow love.
I will listen, make space (and mistakes).
I will out and be outed.
I will stand with you, rooted.
I am taking some time to reflect on ThisEgg’s values, and to figure out how best to action ThisEgg’s support for BLM in a concrete way.
For now, some (of many many) books for reading / podcasts for listening / stuff for watching / artists, activists & organisations for adoring & supporting:
Why I Am No Longer Talking To White People About Race - Reni Eddo-Lodge
Natives - Akala
White Fragility - Robin DiAngelo
The Heart - Race Traitor Series
About Race - another Reni Eddo-Lodge
13th directed by Ava DuVernay
Killer Mike's documentary series, Trigger Warning
I May Destroy You created, written, co-directed, and executive produced by Michaela Coel
Isra Hirsi who co-founded the U.S. Youth Climate Strike, the American arm of a global youth climate change movement. In 2019, she won a Brower Youth Award. That same year, Hirsi received the Voice of the Future Award. In 2020, Isra was placed on BET's "Future 40" list.
If, like me, words words words can be difficult sometimes, follow Mona Chalabi who puts all the stats n facts into illustrations.