audiences, criticism, Dramaturgical Analysis, My own plays, Responses, Theatre, writing

brutality, brittleness and some merciless gods

So I’ve been thinking a bit lately about what we can ask of our audiences. About hardness, culpability and the hurt that words can bring. A few weeks ago I saw Roslyn Oades’ Hello, Goodbye, Happy Birthday and I felt so grateful to see a piece of theatre that was new, innovative and at the forefront of its field just be gentle. New and innovative so often means jagged.

I’m aware that theatre happens both onstage and in my body – the body of the audience – and I am aware that the theatre that is me goes through phases: sometimes I can take whatever you have going and other days, for whatever reason, I am more brittle.

Last night, at Merciless Gods, I was brittle from muscular pain and painkillers. This brittleness (and my fun drug cocktail) in no way clouded my vision: I saw a stunning production. I saw actors perform with incredible control, intensity and generousity. I saw a lighting design that made me gasp and I heard words that cut. And I was shaken because it was hard and jagged and I was brittle and tired.

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Charles Purcell in Merciless Gods. Photo: Sarah Walker.

A few weeks ago, I wrote this scene (edited down here) for my new play, Whale. I doubt it will make it to the final or even third draft because dramaturges seldom have time for this sort of wanky self-doubt, but this scene was in my head last night.

WRITER:

I think I need a break

Does anyone else need a break?

MAN:

Are you okay?

WRITER:

How much is too much to ask of theatre?

MAN:

I’m not –

Sorry

Not following

WRITER:

Like

We want it to be relevant and have a message

We want it to say the big things but

Like

Right now relevant means fucked

It means

Give them a shitty night

I just

Think that maybe there needs to be a moratorium

Maybe we need to ask our audiences

Do you want us to be relevant and frightening

To put shitty decisions on your lap and force you to feel culpable

Or do you want to come here and forget about it?

MAN:

Okay I hear you

I just think

Now you’ve started

Maybe you need to finish this one

Okay?

You can write a comedy next year

Would that make you feel better?

Yeah, that’s definitely not going to make it to draft three.

Every time I ask people these questions, their answers blow me away. So – prompted by Merciless Gods but in no way entirely about that show – I wanted to give people a chance to answer the questions that I keep coming up against. Here, in an act of beautiful generosity, artists and critics answer my questions:

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Photo: Sarah Walker (again)

How much is too much?

Sarah Walker: You know, I think there really isn’t an answer to this question. Because I’ve seen shows that have depicted horror – true horror, but they’ve cared for the audience in that space. Given them a sense of power. Whether it be to politically empower people – say, this is happening but it can be stopped and you can do something to stop it, or to just fight horror with love, with hope – to say, just feeling is an act of rebellion. Loving is a weapon against hate. Those are the shows that have justified their brutality. I think the problem comes when a show brings you darkness but doesn’t give you a way out. That is the work that shuts people down. That makes them feel powerless.

Myron My: I don’t believe there can be such a thing in theatre because ultimately it is all make-believe. As long as it’s done with care and respect. I think it’s important that while we yearn for love and happiness it’s really important to explore and reflect on the darker elements of life, and what better way to do it than through theatre.

What purpose does brutality serve of our stages?

Eliza Quinn: I think sometimes its the escapism of theatre that can feel brutal – like “Oh, I just spent two hours in this nice warm theatre and I went into a totally different world that made me feel something that might have been vaguely euphoric or sublime, and now I’m outside and it’s cold and wet and I don’t know how to reconcile what I saw in there with what I know is happening out here.”
Sometimes it’s like a performance is asking too much of me by being so wonderful and joyful. Then I exit the theatre and go home and turn on the news and there is no joy.
Like I feel as though the performance or text or whatever didn’t give me any tools with which to navigate the world outside. And I ask myself if that’s the point of theatre? If it is there to give you the tools to deal with the real world or if I should just be grateful that a whole lot of people put in so much effort to entertain me. Sometimes it feels like I am asking too much of theatre.

Sarah Walker: I think of all artists, theatremakers particularly feel this responsibility for their work to interrogate, to challenge and to reveal. We’re okay with film being entertaining and silly and comforting, but I think theatremakers feel like that isn’t enough – feel like they have to ask the big, awful questions with their bodies and their text. Perhaps it’s something about the liveness of theatre – the reality of the human figure sweating and fretting and heart-beating in front of you. Something about that dynamic seems to force us to try to create work that makes people feel, and it feels wrong or cowardly to just make people laugh or feel delight. It’s not, of course. The ideal work is one, I think, that acknowledges that the world is terrifying and brutal and cruel, but reminds us that there is beauty, there is hope, and that we can cultivate those energies and emotions in a way that isn’t just ignoring the bad.

What did the brutality of Merciless Gods do to you?

Bridget Mackey: I think that we should see brutality on our stages. There’s a brutality that exists in our world and I think that we should be made to look at it. I think that Christos Tsiolkas is a writer who makes us look at things that we, as a society, don’t want to look at. And Little One’s production of Merciless Gods has skilfully dramatised the quality about Tsiolkas that I appreciate. To be honest, there’s a brutality to my own desires. I’m talking about both sexual desires and things I’d like to do or say when I’m angry or frustrated. Of course, I am sometimes ashamed of these things and don’t act on them. Sometimes I act them out in a safe way. I figure other people are the same. So, I think the stage is a good place to explore darkness and brutality. Sometimes when we look at things closely we see them for what they are, and realise we are not alone in our experiences.

Sarah Walker: When Stephen and Dan were interviewed on Smart Arts, they both used a word to describe the stories that made up the show, and that word was ‘tender.’ And I feel like that was what I took away from that production – this sense of profound tenderness. I will admit that I watched it partly through a camera lens, which always distorts my experience of a production. But what I felt during those vignettes wasn’t the stark, clinical slap of brutality. It was the ache of love, of longing, of people desperately trying to figure out what it was to be human. What it meant to be alive in a cruel world that took things away that you cared for. So many of those characters were just aching – aching, but in the space that absence or pain carved in them, that ache became something of substance. Became love that filled the hole and defined it. My overwhelming takeaway was that humans can be hideous, but they can also be so, so tender. So human. And that that love and tenderness wasn’t just a response to pain. It was a force just as strong as the horror. There was something I found comforting in it, because I’ve felt that pain, that loss. Not in the circumstances of the characters in the show, but I recognised those feelings. And knowing that we all feel those things – it helps to make us feel a little less alone. And the more complex pieces – Petals, for example, still had moments of profound beauty. Pete Paltos singing, his voice filling that huge space, brought beauty to a monologue that is otherwise horrifying. That a character who could be so brutal could also be so beautiful was meaningful, and complex, in the way that the world is complex.

Have you seen a show that has asked too much of you?

Jessica Bellamy: I have seen shows that asked too much of me, but for me, that “too much” was along the lines of: pretend you can empathise with the couple trying to buy a house, give a shit about that wedding, laugh at those jokes that to you are not funny, not relatable, not coming from a world that empowers you. The last show that asked too much of me was The Odd Couple. I sat in the middle of the theatre, surrounded by a room of half-tittering and half-snoring white hairs and I felt tears run down my face because I knew this sort of theatre and this sort of “comedy” is what so many people want, and what I should be reaching for if I want to make the sweet big money out there one day, but does it have to be within a tapestry of middle class sexist bullshit? When I see plays like this, where the wise and witty and weird are mocked and ignored, I think: theatre can be a bully sometimes. Theatre should be a refuge and a solace, but plays like this just remind me I am not welcome. There is no place for me in a canon like this. I did not find Merciless Gods brutal. I found it refreshing, honest, sad, ugly and beautiful. I heard voices that we do not often hear, do not listen to, that get lost under the weight of those who are amplified too often.

Merciless Gods is by Dan Giovannoni from the book by Christos Tsiolkas​ and directed by Stephen Nicolazzo. It is playing at Northcote Townhall until August 5th.

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Brigid Gallacher, Photo: Sarah Walker (as always)

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2016// a year in moments

January // I write a letter to Sarah. I don’t send it for another ten months.

Dear Sarah,

Otis Redding sung me down into London with a voice like tears. I found him on the aeroplane’s playlist called ‘Western Pop: The Latest Pop from the World’s Biggest Stars.’ Also on the list were Bette Midler, Duran Duran and a group called ‘Purity Ring’. London appeared like a ring of candles encircling the horizon. Otis purred to Old Man Trouble.

In the town I’m staying in, there is a statue with its head and half its chest lopped off. My sister guesses casually that it may be the work of Cromwell’s men. Now it stands guard outside the Pizza Express. History is so visible here. Even the violent, ugly parts.

Love, Fleur.

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England. With family.

February // I wander into a museum, tucked inside a university in London.

It is one of those working museums, with desks pushed up against glass cabinets and the notes of students and researches covering every surface not already covered with Eygtian relics. I find the coffin of a woman named Nairytisitnefer. Written on a piece of paper beside it is a translation of the hieroglyphics craved into it.  The paper says that these were words spoken by Nairytisitnefer, who was true of voice. She said this: that she got her heart from the house of hearts and her soul from the house of souls but that “the mind of Nairytisitnefer belongs to her, and she is content with it.” I loved that.

Back in Australia, my mother walks up on stage to collect the Jill Blewett award on my behalf from the Premier of South Australia.

March // I give up counting.

Usually I count how many times I sleep without medication, times I see a doctor, shows I see, times I cry, people I kiss, books I read, scripts I read, productions I worked on. By March I was already too tired to count.

This month I call 65 passionate young people and tell them they will not be a part of Slaughterhouse Five. I call 10 and tell them they will be.

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Lonely Company, brand new in 2016.

April // I’m walking down an empty corridor and then it is no longer empty.

Three meters away, a young woman turns a corner and we see each other. Our eyes meet for a millisecond, we avert our gazes, both say ‘sorry’ and walk on. After, it occurs to me that this is perhaps the most female interaction ever: None of this myth about women competitively judging each other with a glance. This is women: We share a space for a moment, make no physical or emotional contact, mutually apologies for our presence in this corridor/world and walk on.

May // We are working on the final scene of Slaughterhouse Five.

It’s the first time we’ve looked at it so I’ve asked the actors to bring in something it made them think of. We go out onto the lawn, sitting in a slightly lopsided circle to make space for Liam’s wheelchair, and this beautiful group of young people respond to a massacre, 71 years old. We pass around print outs of paintings, people read poems from their iphones and I play Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams and from The Singing Tree, by Kate Seredy. Then we read the final scene of Slaughterhouse Five. 

And somewhere in there was springtime. The corpse mines were closed down. The soldiers all left to fight the Russians. In the suburbs, the women and children dug rifle pits. We were locked up in the stable in the suburbs. They left us there. We ate the hay. And then, one morning, we got up to discover that the door was unlocked. The Second World War in Europe was over.

We wandered out onto the shady street. The trees were leafing out. There was nothing going on out there, no traffic of any kind. There was only one vehicle, an abandoned wagon drawn by two horses.

Birds were talking. One bird said, ‘Poo-tee-weet?’

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Slaughterhouse Five. Photo: Sarah Walker

Things I learnt this year //

How to sew scrunchies.

That my bosses support me, even when a crazy man emails them saying that I’m the worst thing ever.

That my boyfriend loves me.

How to edit audio.

Every word of Not Throwing Away My Shot from Hamilton.

That The Macarena was a 1993 pop hit and not, as I had previously thought, a folk dance.

June // I blocked someone.

Facebook opened a new page and showed me a list: the three people I have blocked, including the newest addition. There, in the midst of my frustration, I saw a beautiful thing: those other two names, both of which I’d given barely a thought to in eight years. ‘Oh yeah,’ I murmured, ‘I guess that was a shitty, sad moment eight years ago.’ I love time and how it passes. I love knowing that one day I’ll probably come back to this list again, look at the third name and think ‘oh yeah, I guess I remember when that happened’ before getting on with the rest of my day.

This month my niece and I build a museum. We careful position toy dinosaurs on Duplo blocks, make a tiny doll’s house into a café and she writes a sign: Welcome to Museum. Like the Adelaide museum, we need a giant squid, so make one from ribbon and a blue wooden block. We suspend it in an empty glass, using a chopstick and a rubber band. I don’t know which of us is more proud.

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July //  My mother and I, on a couch in Adelaide.

We are studying four photos of the Beirut convent where my great-great grandmother, Thekla, was raised. Thekla was just three when her mum froze to death in a vineyard and now, here we sat, my mum and I, studying the four photos in the book for signs of what her life was: the Germanic dorm rooms, with their straight lines of identical beds, the orphan’s embroidery, the nun with her tight press lips and tighter habit.

“I hope they were kind to her, that little girl,” said mum, and we both cried a bit.

2016 resolutions //

To find what it is that I need in each project or job to do it joyously. Follow my joy. Work with joy. Articulate that joy. This actually worked wonderfully. While there were still projects I struggled to find the joy with, I did seek it out. This resolution also played a big part in how we made Contact Mic: we begun by asking what we all needed from the project in order to do it joyously and used the answers to create a work flow.

Glorify balance rather than overwork. I think I did quite well at this. I was still very busy but there were also mediation and picnics.

Love courageously. Nailed it.

Go to yoga 180 times. Did not nail it.

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Favourite man. Photo by Sarah Walker.

August // A man screams at me over the phone.

‘Who even are you anyway?’ I tell him he knows who I am. I am Fleur, we’ve met and I’m the artistic coordinator for the Academy. ‘Well that’s just a title!’ He retorts. Then, a moment later ‘so you’re the one who would be making this decision?’ Yep. So I guess it isn’t just a title. He yells some more and eventually I tell him that I will not continue the conversation and will email him with my decision. He yells ‘don’t you dare hang up on me’ as I hang up. I’m surprised by how unshaken I am.

September // A message from Liam pops up on my Facebook screen.

It tells me this isn’t Liam. That Liam is dead. Could I let people know? I write back some words – love, sympathy, thoughts – and facebook tells me that Liam sees them. But I don’t think that is true.

I write to students. I tell them Liam is dead. That he is no longer in pain. That it happened yesterday. I ask them not to post about it publicly until the family do because that’s the kind of thing you need to remind people these days. I tell them I’ll keep them posted about the funeral.

I cry a bit, a couple of short, confused sobs. I walk down the street with an empty shopping bag. I return with an empty shopping bag.

I go back and read Liam’s last message to me. Back when he really was Liam.

I’m out of hospital and the surgery went well. Unfortunately there is no good news on the cancer front, but such is life. My breathing is still a bit dodgy but slowly getting better.

Sorry I’m just really distracted by this election. I think safe schools is so important. If I had had safe schools in my school I would have been more comfortable being my authentic self earlier. I would have understood that I wasn’t alone and isolated and that there were so many people like me all around. I also don’t want to die without the right to marry. Sigh. I don’t know.

Anyway, just had to vent. Thank you so much for checking in! Very kind. I think of you often and slaughterhouse! This actually reminds me, I was going to message but forgot but wanted to say thank you for havjng me on the production. You took me as an AD despite havjng little practical experience, and I really appreciate that opportunity. I really hope I was of some help and I just felt so happy being involved with such a talented and kind creative. It was truly a beautiful and intelligent piece.

I cry a lot then. I go back to the students. I write ‘This is shit. I’m so sorry. I’ll organise flowers.’ And I do.

I drive across the city. I am hugged by beautiful, teary women and then they do their vocal warm ups and I warm up the lights and we do a show. I am drinking at the op desk, shutting my eyes between cues and taking deep breaths. I thought he had more time.

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My favourite moment of theatre I made this year. Photo: Sarah Walker

October // I go for a drive.

It is dark and the streets are almost empty. I’m actually very calm. I pull into a side street next to a Synagogue because it looks at good a street as any to sit in and be quiet. To listen to Dan Savage on the last of my phone battery, take deep breaths and try not think about the yelling and crying I left behind. My mum calls. I say it’s fine but I need to go because my battery is low. I say I’ll go home soon. Then I sit some more. Dan Savage chats on, talking sex and politics until the screen goes dark. I drive home. The next day I make an appointment to see a counsellor.

November // We cook dinner.

I shell the broad beans, he blends the hummus, I roll out the flat bread, he mixes the salad dressing. We smile a lot. We clink glasses. We eat. We finish and we drive to the opening night of a show I’ve worked on for three years. In the car I say thank you for the lovely, distracting dinner. I say let’s make this a pre-show tradition. I say really though, making art is weird. I say, but in a way I’ve already done my job and peers have already said I’ve done it pretty darn well. I say I just hope I like it. I say hold my hand, please.

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Contact Mic. Kieran, Sarah and I.

2017 resolutions //

See friends on purpose and for no reason. If I have a nice conversation with someone, tell them I enjoyed it and organise to make it happen again.

Budget. Save money and then spend it going to England.

Create less waste.

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My niece wrote her first sentence in 2016.

December // We enter the room.

My face tries to cram thirteen different emotions on it at once. I tear up. The room is full of light, sound and finches. Perhaps fifty finches fly about, landing on beautiful, coathanger structures hung from piano wire. Each tiny landing adds to the soundscape. We sit on the blond wood floor. We watch the birds. We hold hands. We watch new people enter the room and try to cram multiple emotions onto their faces. And I feel so, so lucky for a year of sights, adventures and experiences with this man.

 

Ending and beginning.

I end the year with $4500 debt and a persistent Internet stalker. I also end it with a development of a new play for the State Theatre Company of South Australia locked in. I end it with 12 episodes of a podcast I have made with two of my dearest friends under my belt and 12 applications from playwrights wanting to work with Lonely Company in my inbox. I end it running Lonely Company with two of my other dearest friends. I feel very lucky in my collaborators.

I start 2017 hopeful and pretty calm. In an hour I’ll ride a bike to a New Years party and I’ll smile a lot, kiss a lot and supervise the barbecuing of haloumi and mushrooms. I’ll probably be asleep by midnight or at least 12.30. I’ll wake in the morning to a new year with old friends and maybe some new ones. And I’ll do my best.

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December 30th, 2016

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audience conversations, conversation, criticism, personal, Responses, Sex, Theatre

in conversation: f. by riot stage youth theatre

When I came to record audience conversations of F., (my first in a long time, apologies) my SD card was full of a previous conversation: 

Interlude 1: Setting, an outdoor courtyard of a Geelong cafe. A confused 90-year-old sits with her granddaughter. 

Her: What’s that?

Me: It’s a microphone recorder.

Her: Oh really.

Me: Yeah. You were telling me such good stories on the –

Her: Pardon?

Me: You were telling me such good stories in the car on the way here so I thought –

Her: Was I?

Me: You were.

Her: I don’t think I was.

So my SD card was full the night I recorded with random audience members for F. and I only recorded two incomplete conversations, presented here with interludes from my grandmother. 

Know that this production resulted in some beautiful conversations, not all of which I was able to capture. Know that I feel privileged to have had these conversations with these articulate young people, reflecting on growing up with the internet in the 21st Century. Know that I was thrilled to have been so provoked and unsettled by the teenagers of Riot Stage and that it was a delight to see them owning their voices and stories. Know too that my grandmother would never in a million years understand any of it. 

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Photo: Sarah Walker

Conversation 1: Setting, sitting on the floor of a corridor outside the theatre. Two eighteen-year-olds, who have never seen theatre like this before, sit holding hands. They have just finished year twelve exams. 

Me: So what just happened in there? What was there?

Nelly: That was confusing at times!

Me: What do you think happened to you?

Zac: Just discussing issues sort of facing teenagers and that. Yeah. And just the chaotic vibe of it and yeah it’s… you can sort of relate to it I suppose. Um. Yeah.

Nelly: We’ve seen school musicals and stuff but it’s not like that at all. Our school plays are like Pride and Prejudice and stuff. This is like, really different.

Zac: Seems much more relevant and real I suppose. Much more relatable than the perfect pictures that TV and that paint.

Me: Big question but how do you feel about the internet? It’s our whole lives, I know.

Zac: Me and her sort of started being friends on the internet. We were in the same class but I was really shy. I just won’t talk but online I was really loud.

Nelly: Like he had two personalities.

Me: So if it was thirty years ago, when introductions were all walking up to someone and asking them to dance at a mixer, you’d never have talked.

Zac: Nup. That’s why the Internet has a lot of negative aspects but at the same time, it’s very useful in connecting people. We wouldn’t have this connection without it.

End conversation 1.

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Photo: Sarah Walker

Interlude: 

Me: You were talking about Nelson and your uncles playing cricket.

Her: Was I?

Me: Yeah. Did granddad play any sport?

Her: Oh… He usually played golf.

Long pause.

Me: Did you ever try golf.

Her: I don’t think so.

Me: Those sons of your must have got it from somewhere.

Her: Do they play golf?

Conversation 2: Setting, a square of lawn outside the venue. My legs are pink with grass allergy and will continue to sting for an hour afterwards.

Me: What happened to you in there?

Jules: I think I was reminded of the distance between being a young adult and being a teenager. And what it’s like to be a teenager. It’s amazing how much you forget even in a couple of years. I’m twenty-two and it was amazing just to be like, there’s definitely –

A parade of motorbikes roar past.  

Me: We’ll give them a moment.

More motorbikes.

Jules: Okay. Rude.

We wait. They pass. We resume.

Jules: I just thought it was a really beautiful representation of being a teenager.

Doug: To me it was sort of this mish-mash collection of snippets, just reminding you of what it’s like to be a teenager. And I mean, I’m 19 so I’m closer to being that teenager but there’s still that incredible distance that forms when you hit uni and you leave that whole high school mentality. I think this did a really good job of reminding me of that and how it feels to be in that claustrophobic environment. It reminds you of all the weird things teenagers do and how their brains work.

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Photo: Sarah Walker

When I was a sixteen-year-old I didn’t know how to express myself very well. It was a lot like in the show, you’d have characters just switching topics almost on a dime, just talking awkwardly. It was a lot like that. Now I find it a lot easier to structure what I’m trying to say and separate my thoughts.

Me: Could you express yourself better online?

Doug: Yeah, I think so. It was useful because it sort of gave me time to think about what I was trying to say.

Jules: It is this weird Schrodinger’s Cat thing of being heard and not heard. You can scream into the void but there might be someone listening. If you feel like you can’t express yourself properly at high school or with you friends or family, you end up with this strange sort of dynamic where you simultaneously might have someone hearing you and understanding you and saying ‘it’s gonna be okay’ but you also have this freedom just to say whatever you want because there might not be anyone listening. It is a strange dynamic.

Interlude: 

Me: When you were a teenager, working on the farm. What did you do for fun?

Her: I think they took me shopping with them. Thursday was a shopping day. I don’t know if it was much fun.

Me: Did you like reading?

Her: I never did very much reading.

Me: What was your favourite thing about Granddad?

Her: Granddad?

Me: My granddad.

Her: Your granddad? He was away at the First World War, granddad. He didn’t have a very happy life afterwards.

Me: That’s your dad? Is there anything you remember doing with him?

Her: No, I don’t think so.

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Photo: Sarah Walker

Conversation 2:

Me: I really loved the scene early on: the two boys chatting with the text behind them and just how understated it was: ‘I came out to my parents, we had tacos,’ that kind of thing. I’m 30 and this was a great reminder how, in such a short time, what was a big deal has changed and become a regular part of adolescence. Still, there are people for whom coming out is a big deal and is traumatic and has frightening and very real consequences, but for a lot of young gay people, that’s not the toughest part of being a teenager. The main difficulty for that teenager was just being a teenager: being caught in that land between autonomy/self-realisation and that childhood dependence on others.

Doug: I remember when I came out to my mum and she just turned to me and said ‘oh I know’. I was like ‘oh okay.’ I was fifteen or sixteen. I’d been expecting more drama I guess. She’d always been very accepting but yeah it was… odd.

I think the scene that’s sticking with me the most is with the two girls that were sitting watching porn and just that raw discussion of sexuality and their vaginas. When you’re a teenager with a trusted friend and you haven’t really explored these things before, you just talk about it. She was talking about how she wanted to change how her vagina looked and stuff – that really introspective stuff that adults are a lot less likely to just let out because it comes rooted in insecurities and things like that. I used to talk a lot about things I didn’t feel great about. Mostly to close friends, a lot of them I only knew through the Internet, which I think really helped. Like, I don’t really know this person, so it won’t matter as much if I just talk openly with them.

Me: The first time I saw porn I was talking to this guy a couple of years older than me on Nine MSN. He was this gay guy –

Jules and Doug: Oh MSN!

Me: And he was like ‘this is the kind of guys I like’ and he sent me this link. Suddenly my screen was covered in all these naked women. I worked out ages later that I must have got a pop up but at the time I was like ‘he’s a gay guy, he would know what men are’ so I was looking at them going ‘so these are men… so he likes men with make up and… boobs and small thingies’. They were so clearly female bodies. Very naked, very female. But I didn’t have any idea what gender they were. The colour scheme was not what I associated with naked women. It was all pink and gold and shiny and slippery and just… didn’t look like the naked women I’d seen in my life. And I wrote to the guy and was like ‘this is the kind of men you like?’ And he was like ‘yeah’ and I was like ‘men with boobs?’ and he was like ‘what? Men like the men I sent you!’ We worked it out after a while. But that was my first experience of Internet porn: just not even knowing what I was looking at.

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Photo: Sarah Walker

Doug: I got tricked. This was in primary school. It was one of those gags that was going around. People were saying ‘if you go to redtube.com, it is like youtube but it’s in HD!’ So I hopped on our family computer that was out in the living room at the time, typed in redtube.com and up came these… not youtube videos. It took me a second. I scanned the page and I started scrolling down and I was about eight or nine, I think. I’d just been given permission to use the computer –

Me: And you blew it, straight away.

Doug: I blew it straight away! I scrolled down and I saw all these images that I didn’t really understand. My dad came over and understandably he was sort of ‘what are you doing?’ I told him that I’d been told this was HD but it didn’t look like the youtube videos I normally watched. He closed out of the browser and we had a little talk about what porn is. I think he just said ‘it’s videos of people having sex on the internet’. My parents never glossed over things. They never talked about genitals with weird words, it was always ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’. I think I was probably four or five when I asked where babies came from and they just straight up told me.

Me: I remember asking what ‘cunt’ was and my mother said ‘it’s another word for vagina’ in such a matter of fact way that I thought for years it was a more polite word – like the medical terminology! Not that it came up in conversation because it didn’t but yeah, I was like ‘oh, that’s the grown up way to talk about vaginas! Good to know!’

Interlude:

Me: Look at that. They’ve got a chandelier hanging in the greenery. Looks like you might be able to find some monkeys here.

Her: What’s that?

Me: I was just saying, it looks like you might be able to find some monkeys here.

Her: Oh.

Silence. Knives and forks clatter. 

Me: What are you most proud of?

Her: Oh. (A long pause.) I guess… most proud of family life. Mum and dad and the family. Mum kept the family together really. Dad was good too but… aftermath of the war, I think. He drank a lot of alcohol which was a worry, not only to mum and myself but the rest of us.

Me: Was that part of the reason you never drunk alcohol?

Her: I suppose it might have been part of it but I never took a liking to it anyway. Anything I tasted I never liked. You wonder how anyone could ever like it.

Conversation 2:

Me: I think the scene that really wrecked me was the scene with the two actors on opposite sides of the stage. The first night I was sitting with two straight men and they were watching the boy and I was watching the girl. I really noticed the different ways our heads were turned. I think that is a scene that is so heartbreaking for both characters but you do experience it very differently as a male or female. I don’t know. And I don’t know how different it is as a gay man either. I think a lot of heterosexual men move through the world with this deep fear of taking advantage of a woman.

Jules: I didn’t know where look: whether I should watch one of them, whether I should not watch any of them and just listen. I thought it was really interesting that they chose to make it very dubious as to what actually happened but very clear that she didn’t want it. I feel that that’s a situation that happens all the time and far too –

End conversation 2, with a full SD card.

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Photo: Sarah Walker

Interlude:

Her: We had two or three horses we used to ride. Might have been more than that at times. The neighbours – they lived four or five miles up towards the boarder and eh – they had a lot of shetlands. They were half broken-in and they used to pass them on to us to ride. Some of them were very good to ride but others were very cheeky.

Me: Yeah. Yeah, that sounds hard work.

Her: I forget how many we would have ridden all together.

Waiter: Spinach and feta borek?

Me: That’s me. And the lamb is here.

Waiter: And would you like a knife and fork with that one?

Me: Would you like a knife and fork, grandma?

Her: No. Thank you.

Waiter leaves. Silence.

Her: A knife and fork would be handy.

End interlude. 

F. is by Riot Stage and was presented as part of the Poppy Seed Theatre Festival of 2016. It was directed by Katrina Cornwell, written by Morgan Rose, performed by a cast ranging from 15 to 19. 

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Dramaturgical Analysis, Fragmentary Response, history, personal, Politics

nic green’s trilogy, naked bodies, badass babes and a feminist heritage

trilogy crowd

Trilogy

A before thought:

I’d been told Trilogy was like a festival; a joyous, celebratory riot of female flesh.

I needed that. I bought a ticket instantly.

The last few weeks have been awash with general-purpose sorrow. Perhaps it is just the cold sinking in through my always-too-thin clothes (I never learnt to layer) or perhaps the constant grey above me just seeped in.

But there was something else: I’ve been grieving my body.

I used to berate my body constantly. I was young then and just learning to live out of home, just working out how to feed myself and who I was without a school uniform.

I remember being pretty confident in my body for a while there. Not ‘confident’ so much as ‘unthinking’. Then I emerged from teenage-hood and took off my clothes for cameras and things change. My body changed – I got thin and sleek and hairless – but I also became much more aware of it. I saw myself from every angle. And it was mostly a good sight although I still apologised to photographers every time I took off my clothes:

“Sorry, I just ate lunch.”

“That’s okay.”

“Thank you. Sorry, again.”

But I’m learning something about aging and bodies: accepting your body isn’t a one-time thing. You don’t make peace with it once at twenty-two, tick that off your list and get on with your life. For some of us – perhaps all of us, I don’t know – as your body changes you need to accept it again and again.

And again.

Hello, Body

This is who you are right now, hey?

Yeah

This is who I am right now

You good with that?

Working on it

Same

 

My colleague told me the work filled her up. Re-plenished her. I wanted that.

I want a lot of re- words in my life right now:

Restore, renew, recharge, reward, replenish, reinvigorate, requestion, re-forgive, re-embrace.

Those are some big ‘re’s to ask of a piece of theatre.

trilogy five

Trilogy

A during thought:

Watch me swing from emotion to emotion

Beaming

Crying

Beaming again

I oscillate wildly

Eyes and mouth wide

 

The sight of those bodies

Dozens and dozens of them

A mass of joy and fearless flesh

Filled me up

 

The total miracle that a woman’s body is

Not just because it can ‘be life’

(Although, what a privilege it was to see one of the makers perform pregnant)

But because it bares her

Bodies that carry women through this world

Holy shit

trilogy kicks

Trilogy

The first act culminates in an incredible dance party. At interval we wondered at the positioning of this moment so early in the piece: you couldn’t top that. We had simply never seen anything like it. How could any sight or words match it as a final image?

By the end of the work I knew why we started with this dance of pure delight.

As a feminist and female artist, I often ask myself how do I tell stories of female victimisation without making females the victims. Over the course of the next two acts we saw incredible footage of Norman Mailer attempting repeatedly to silence and shame Jill Johnston (“Come on, Jill. Be a lady.”), we heard grief, rage and truly terrible statistics on sexual violence. I cried when the performers intoned ‘2016’ again and again. The number seemed suddenly so very big, the years so innumerable and yet here we are, still hurting. Still being hurt.

But the overall feeling that one takes from this work is joy, strength and power. The performer never appear disempowered. They are whole-heartedly empowered, their bodies strong, their voices loud, their vision clear, their heritage known.

Women are gutsy motherfuckers. So why did they start with the biggest single image in the show? We needed to set a tone of love, courage, joy and strength. They started by stating a fact: women and their bodies are badass. Got it? Good. Okay. Lets go.

 

An afterthought:

I left the theatre with the desperate urge to call my mother. The feminist who raised me, whose strong body and bore three feminist daughters, whose mind is fierce and whose heart is massive. I spoke to her at the bus stop. “I wish you had been there. I would have loved to see that with you.” Beside me, another woman was on the phone. “There was – like – fifty naked women! Dancing! And the singing! I wish you had seen it!” And I just knew she was talking to her mother too. This was a show that made you want to call your mum, share this with her and thank.

It made me want to thank a lot of women. And myself. And my body. It carries me through this world. What a miracle that is.

 

Feminism: demonstration for women's voting rights in London: Suffragette discharged by the police. - Published by 'Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung' 12/1906- 04.1906

London, 1906, Published by ‘Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung’

I saw Nic Green’s Trilogy at Artshouse in Melbourne. I thank them for programming this incredible and important work.

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Fragmentary Response, history, Theatre

on years passing, cleansed and what i brought to sarah kane

Dear Birds,

I’m sorry I haven’t written in so long. Part of the reason is that any entry takes me a whole day, which is kind of a ridiculous use of my time. So today I have set a timer. I have exactly forty-five to write a first draft. This will be written fast and perhaps stupid. We’ll see.

Ready, steady… Go!

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Photo courtesy of the National Theatre, Copyright: Birgit Kahle

CLEANSED by Sarah Kane, directed by Katie Mitchell. Preview show at the National Theatre, London.

I think that my usual question – ‘what did I walk into this with?’ – is particularly interesting when asked of Sarah Kane.

I entered the theatre with this:

Sarah Kane’s name feels like shorthand for two key things in theatre.

1: For the modern. So cutting edge that it bleeds. Sharp, visceral, of this moment.

2: If you don’t see the genius of it, you are on the wrong side of history. You are the old, the squeamish, the weak, the establishment and you will eat your words some day.

With this in mind, know how surprised I was to have my friend turn to me at the end and say ‘it felt sort of old’. And I realised, I sort of agreed.

I say ‘sort of’ because of another thing that I brought into the theatre: a night spent in Aradale Mental Asylum, a massive, empty building that had not housed patients for more than ten years by the time I camped out with a sleeping bag, friends, my camera and more lenses than we would ever need. The instant I saw the set, I was reminded of that night and that space. The colour of the walls, rampant trees pressing against the window, the peeling paint, the damp floors, all of it called mind that building that was, above all other things, abandoned. This meant I viewed the entire work as a sort of echo. The power suits, the dated drug of choice (heroin), and the hard-to-put-your-finger-on-it-but-not-quite-of-this-moment-ness of it all made sense to me because unconsciously my night in Aradale had turned the figures before me into the echoes of sadness and madness past.

But I also understood what he meant. And I felt a strange guilt within me that I was not reacting to the work as I believed I was meant to: as something that spoke to me at a pitch too high for the old establishment types to hear.

I think that works like Kane’s play out in the bodies of the audience as much as in the theatre: the asking why we are so repelled or not repelled enough, asking what it would take to shock us, noting the moment when twelve people at various places in the theatre decided simultaneously to leave, asking why I did not leave then and what it would take for me to ever do so.

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Cleansed at the Royal Court, 1998, photo credit not provided

The work is immensely rhythmic – even acts of sex all seemed to last exactly the same amount of time – and acts of violence followed very specific patterns: guards enter, they bring in one prisoner then the other, there is a squeaking, the doctor rings an alarm, a guard walks to a corner, draws a pistol and shoots a rat, the guard brings back the dead rat and places it between the prisoners, a short exchange of dialogue, words like bullets, my shoulders tense, my face screws up and a prisoner’s fingers or toes or tongue are removed, the alarm is rung and the prisoners are taken away. It becomes a bit like a horrible cuckoo clock, on the hour popping out to sing its song and lop off toes. It is strange to view such extreme violence as predictable but Kane’s writing works in circles and we see the violence as an uninterruptable pattern.

Maybe I am on the wrong side of history. Maybe in five years I will return to this play as others have and I will see the urgency of it all. I’ll say, “Yes. Yes. This. Thank you. Yes.” Or maybe in five years it will feel five years older – five years further away from its moment of newness and importance. I wonder if the name ‘Kane’ will still conjure for young theatre makers the sense that this is meant to be a work for them and, if they don’t see how it speaks to this moment in time, that they have failed some test. Or maybe the name ‘Sarah Kane’ will mean a different thing to them. Maybe they will enter the theatre with ‘this was an important moment in theatre history’ rather than my (perhaps dated) baggage: this is the New and if I don’t think so I am the Wrong. Which is an unfair thing to attach to both a fourteen-year-old play and to myself.

I must also mention one other thing before my timer runs out: I saw this on a preview. I am sorry to be writing about a preview performance but I like to think my writing is so far from a review and so self-absorbed that I have not committed too large a sin. But I will say that I spent a fair bit of the play being condescending about the woman sitting two seats away from me, typing away on her laptop. I did my “a good reviewer never takes notes!” thing. My “how can you review if you are not allowing yourself to be part of the experience of the theatre?” thing. My “AND it is preview” thing. Naturally, at the end, when I walked past her, I realised that the woman was Katie Mitchell. I did not recognise her face (because I barely recognise my own face) but I certainly recognised her expression: the expression of a director at preview, and the way that she searched my face and that of others who passed for signs of how the work had played out in our bodies and minds. Well, Katie, it did strange things in there. It made me grope for words and question my every grimace and lack of grimace. It made me feel both too old and too young. It left me uncertain, which is the right way to leave the theatre.

Time is up.

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The Red Book Series, thoughts, Welcome to Nowhere

2015/a year in moments and numbers

1/ intro

The year starts scared. It starts in Adelaide. After months of applications and rejections in Melbourne, I flee back to my parent’s house. The year starts with me saying I won’t come back: Adelaide is a soft place to crumple. I wander their garden and eat snow peas off the bush. I wander down rivers with my dogs. I swim (flounder) in the ocean in borrowed bathers. I ride a borrowed bike through the streets. I feel very far away from everyone, including myself.

Then a phone call comes. It says “there’s a job if you want it. It is in Melbourne and you will have to be a brave, badass grown up lady.” And I say “yes”. And I go back to Melbourne. And the year is as full of bravery and badassery as I can make it.

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Photo by Sarah Walker

2/

Outside our dark wood room, a line is forming: 55 people, speaking Spanish. Someone has brought a Venezuelan flag. Others have dressed in the national colours. Behind the wooden doors in the hot, carpeted dark of our tiny theatre, the comedian is warming up as only a Venezuelan would: by teaching his theatre tech to salsa. Our nightly ritual of laughter, loud music, nerves and perhaps a touch of homesickness.

3/

A woman is shaking, screaming into a microphone. She wears a cape and trails red wool like menstrual blood from her underpants. She is tangled in her mic cable in such a way that I just want to run up on stage and explain to her proper cabling technique. (Has she never heard of Under Over?) On either side of her stand the silhouettes of soldiers with heads bowed. They are illuminated by a rainbow chase sequence and the words ‘Lest We Forget’ arch above the tiny stage.

An older woman comes around with a tray of vegetarian spring rolls. She wears earplugs and a glazed smile that seems to say, “I hate this but these people must be fed.”

The raffle is drawn. The prize is a basket containing spam, party poppers, medicinal tea, halal chicken stock and grass jelly. I don’t win. The woman screams on.

4/ some messages i received during my brief foray into the world of okcupid:

  • Hi there! You seem lovely and the robots apparently feel we won’t re-enact the thunderdome upon meeting, so I thought I’d say hello 😀
  • Hello fellow cool person on OkCupid. Nobody around me seems awake at this hour (understandably). I’ve watched a bunch of movies tonight that have me too depressed to sleep, so I’m stuck browsing this site – occasionally consulting with my cat on my matches whenever she wanders into my room. We both agree you seem all right and are mathematically probably not my enemy.
  • You rock! Let’s gets married 🙂
  • Hi, I’m looking for a relationship where the lady gets to see others and I remain faithful. If that appeals please let me know.
  • Fancy meeting you here. Inundating yourself in the lower end of the human evolutionary spectrum and the inevitable associated six-pack pics?
  • If you search against your black and white photo it slams you right there. I give a lot of energy to see how real a person is. If I want to talk to fictional and characters, I can look from within. So when I truly want connect, I confirm they are not a spook.
  • don’t judge I was really drunk and it was with a couple and the guy actually got pretty territorial about her pussy, so I tried ass… but I am not a small guy, maybe only the head went inside, she jumped up ran to the toilet and never came out, it was awkward, so I left…
  • do you think we’ll go on a date? Or just see each other at rehearsal?
  • … and here I was thinking we got along so well! Take care Fleur, all the best x

5/ a girl in a manic up swing talks faster than i can listen

She tells me about her ex boyfriend:

“He had ‘lost soul’ tattooed on his eyelids and stars on his dick.”

It is such a majestic sentence and she is so overwhelming that I decide the night can’t be topped and I leave.

6/ things i learnt this year include:

  • How to wash my hair with baking soda and vinegar.
  • What ‘Shark Week’ means. (I was disappointed that it wasn’t an elongated American holiday celebrating sharks and all the contributions they have made to society.)
  • The difference between an electronic musician and a DJ.
  • How to syringe cough medicine down my dog’s throat.
  • What my natural hair colour is now.
  • That I have a grey hair.
  • My nephew’s name.

7/

January 12th: This photo arrives in my inbox.

2016felix

I carry it with me all year. This was the year of Felix. Of waiting for Felix to be here and safe.

Boxing Day 2015: For the very first time, we watch Felix sit up all by himself. He sways back and forwards and then slowly, slowly he topples to the right, drooling all the way.

8/ my 2015 resolutions:

  • Direct a play of my choosing. (Exit Everything)
  • Don’t complain about theatre as much as in 2014. (Turns out it is much easier when you are getting paid.)
  • Don’t post any old modelling photos or use them as profiles. (Nailed it.)
  • Spend less money on my hair. (Which was easy.)
  • Wear less make up. (Which was terrifying.)

9/ my proudest moments: one of three

Opening night of Kindness, by Bridget Mackey. Having followed that play through from her very initial idea, seeing it fully realised on stage makes me I cry in the dark. I reach back behind me and squeeze her hand as the audience applauds.

10/ some numbers:

  • 74: the number of theatre productions I saw.
  • 12: the number of theatre productions I paid to see.
  • 454: the number of actors I saw in productions.
  • 252: the number of actors that were women.
  • 52: the number of actors of colour.
  • 13: how many play readings I saw.
  • 15: how many productions or readings I worked on.
  • 10: how many scripts I assessed.
  • 272: how many nights I slept without medication. (I beat last year’s record – 103 – by May 17th this year.)
  • 55: the most nights I managed in a row.
  • 79: how many yoga classes I’ve been to since I joined my studio in June.
  • 12: how many OkCupid dates I went on.
  • 5: how many people I kissed.
  • 1: how many people whose hand I held as we slept.

11/ a question mark

“What are you thinking?”

I have a moment to decide how to answer. I decide to be brave, foolish, drunk and love-struck.

“I’m thinking we probably should stop going on these dates.

Or we could just make out.”

He says “hmm, interesting – ” or something similarly terrifying but in that moment, the playwright of the night, Declan Greene, appears. (Of course he does, for Declan must interrupt the hetero-normative, both on stage and off.) For five minutes we say words about theatre, his process, the immense complexity of his play and I am so proud and excited for him but all the while a question mark hang in the air over my head. The hyphen that sliced that response in two has lodged itself somewhere in my oesophagus.

Then Declan is gone, and the two of us make sounds like “hmm” and “so” and “yeah”. We walk. We walk away from the opening night dizziness and into the dark and yes, it is raining a little, just enough to make my hair ridiculous and my jumper smell of wet dog. We stop on Grant Street.

We say some words with our mouths. We smile with our mouths. It is the smile of two brave people who are about to kiss in the rain.

12/ an actual conversation i had:

“It is perfect but… I don’t think – “

“How much do you have?”

“He’s done the maths. It turns out, essentially nothing.”

“Well, how about this: I’ll give you the space for a cut of ticket sales. We’ll take 30, you take 70, plus whatever you get from the bar.”

“That is… amazing! But we still need a set… We don’t even have money for that.”

“What do you need?”

“The first act doesn’t need much but the second act is in a post-apocalyptic cave or something.”

“We’ll I’ve got a post-apocalyptic bunker in the basement. Some students built it for a film shoot. If you promise to get rid of it at the end, you can use that. Would that do?”

That was John Paul, giving The City They Burned a second Melbourne season.

13/ my proudest moments: two of three.

Sarah Walker reading at Women of Letters, blowing everyone away, making a room laugh and cry in turns. And there’s me not being even a tiny bit surprised by her amazingness (we’ve known each other a long time) but feeling so, so achingly proud to know and love that woman.

2016river

Yoga by the Murray.

14/

In an effort to escape the fluorescent bulbs of our hotel room, he has filled the place with tea candles. The balcony doors are open. The tiny flames wriggle in the breeze. Mosquitoes vibrate against the fly screen. Out there in the darkening world, the river flows past us, giant and oblivious.

18/ driving down the freeway at night:

“We thought we could stay close with our Christian friends and just not be Christian with them. But in the end, we lost practically all of them.”

Behind us, the dogs are snoring.

I say “thank you”. I thank my father and my absent mother for the choice they made. I tell him I’m so glad to have grown up the way that I did.

“I think about it a lot; the choice you made. I think you were both so brave.”

And they were. We travel on, down a golden river of tungsten light.

15/ motion sickness

Facebook’s ‘On This Day’ feature leaves me with Tralfamadorian motion sickness: a sense of swinging between many different presents, haphazardly.

Up pops an alert and I am transported to a day on which my grandmother is still a part of my life. A day when I cut her nails and tease her for sleeping with a bag of old corks in her bed because she’s heard they help cramps. I take photos of flowers I’ve cut from her garden and I watch the news beside her and roll my eyes every time she calls Gillard ‘That Woman’.

Like someone in a dream, I cannot yell “The train is coming!”, “It’s behind you!” or “Time’s almost up!” The days tick by for Past Fleur and Past Flo. Days spent trying to stop her from eating so much chocolate and trying to stop her from waiting at her front gate for the taxi when she could just as easily wait inside. And then the days run out. Then miraculously begin again because time is no longer linear. Flo and Fleur, a year younger, begin their last year once more, moving obliviously towards oblivion.

16/ my resolutions for 2016:

  • To find what it is that I need in each project or job to do it joyously. Follow my joy. Work with joy. Articulate that joy.
  • Glorify balance rather than overwork.
  • Love courageously.
  • Go to yoga 180 times.

17/ yesterday

Sitting in the car outside of the pharmacy, I take my painkillers and cry.

18/ my proudest moments: number three

When I see what Emma Valente and co. did with my stage direction: ‘Maisy falls back on the bed. Stars come out on the covers and glitter across the stage. The two bodies seem to float in space. Galaxies collapse and are built in the creases of their arms and the softness of their bellies.’

 

Welcome to Nowhere-20150923-215303_DA13595-2

Photo by David Sheehy.

19/

On the other side of the world, a little girl is telling us about Space. She works her way through the planets with a useful fact about each one (“it has rings”, “it is very small”, “it has a volcano but the volcano is sleeping”). Once we pass Pluto we learn that comets are “sparkly” and that then there is the Milky Way.

“What’s the Milky Way?”

“It’s our galaxy.”

“What’s a galaxy?”

“It’s all sparkly and all together.”

“Do you tell your baby brother about space?”

“No. He’s too little to understand space.”

So am I, I think. Perhaps you have to be the right amount of little and big to be sure you know what a galaxy is. Perhaps Almost Four is the perfect age for understanding space.

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Photo by David Kilpatrick

20/ a word

It has been years since I used the word ‘boyfriend’. I am more comfortable with unfinished sentences and vague hand gestures.

Once, back in 2013, I said, “the guy I’m dating” in front of The Guy I Was Dating and he hissed, “we’re not dating”. We stopped doing whatever it was we were doing not long after that.

Which makes it seem like I was uncomfortable without definitions. Like I’ve spent four years longing for clarity. And I haven’t. I’ve spent four years longing to feel ready for clarity. And now I am.

‘Boyfriend’ still feels foreign. It feels italicised. Like an invitation for questions. Like it isn’t mine to use. Like I might be accused of mispronunciation, or cultural appropriation. It is so outside of me.

And yet, as anxious and unsure as I am every time the word leaves my mouth, I am so proud to be saying it. So proud to declare with those syllables that I care for someone and they care for me. That we can make out pretty much any time and hold hands in the dark of theatres. I say those two syllables with terror in my eyes and an increased heart rate. I say them ready to be corrected, rejected and neglected and yet I am not. I am smiled at, hugged, kissed, affirmed, celebrated. This is the year of complete sentences.

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fiction, mental health, Sex, thoughts, writing

some small and unfinished things from my 2015 journals

Flicking through the pages of my 2015 journals, I found these tiny bits of somethings that never went anywhere. Now they are going here because they seemed to want a home. They are completely and utterly unconnected from each other.

1/ (a short thought on blindness) (connected to nothing)

And sometimes she wondered how the world would be if all who moved through it were blind
If we groped our way along walls, hands seeking doorways

She thought how perfume might take the place of visual vanities
How subtly a man might scent each fingertip, showing off his skills at blending and complementing by running them under the nose of his mate

And sometimes she wondered if we would care more or less for our planet if we couldn’t see it
Is its visual beauty its saving grace or do our eyes, ranging far ahead of our feet, make us want?
Would we be more gentle if everything we experienced had to be touched, to be pressed against, licked, sniffed, listened to?

Sometimes she wondered these things
Sometimes she shut her eyes on quiet streets and walked in a straight line for as long as she dared
But it didn’t make her feel more connected to anything but herself and her fear and the sound of her feet

fragments2015

Photo by Sarah Walker, of course.

2/ (unfinished) (a character sketch)

She’s called ‘Stephanie’ but hates it.

She’s short but not short enough to be mistaken for a younger child, which bores her as she hates being ten, being the eldest, being told to ‘grow up’.

Stephanie thinks of frogs that bury themselves in mud for six years. She wishes she could do that and emerge at the end of her adolescence fully formed. A grown up.

3/ (an old memory) (about no one you know)

“What do you find most attractive about me? Physically. You’re not allowed to say ‘my brain’.”

We’re in his bed. Possibly naked. I don’t remember. More likely he is in his onesie and I’m in some gigantic t-shirt and tracksuit pants he has lent me.

“You know who you’re talking to, right? You realise I have – like – zero facial recognition skills. I mean, I think your eyes are probably quite nice but if I looked away right now and then looked back and you had completely different eyes, I probably wouldn’t notice.”

“There has to be something.”

“There is. I just – I feel like there is something really specific and tangible you want me to say. Like ‘your arms’ or ‘your smile’ and I just don’t have an answer like that. Your arms make me feel safe. And not in some girlie, needing-to-be-physically-protected way. I just feel good when I’m in them. Like we’re doing okay. I like your hands because they make me stop feel self-conscious for as long as they are on me. And yes, I’m sorry, but I do fucking love your brain. It is an hilarious place to hang out in and it fires mine up. It turns mine on. You think so differently to me. Just as fast, just as bizarre but bizarre in a totally different way. I love how you think. How you make me think. And feel. And be. It is fucking sexy.”

But he wasn’t satisfied. And I get that. I do. He was having one of those days. One of those days when you don’t need to hear that. You just need to objectified. You want the answer to be ‘your body’ or ‘your arse’ or ‘your cheekbones, man I love your cheekbones!’ and I am shit at that.

But also, my answers were less about him and more about how he made me feel. And he made me feel good but that day I stopped being able to return the favour. And I got out of his clothes and his bed and his life and he went in search of someone better and I went back to paper and pen.

 

 

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