A comment from the Theatre in the Pound audience on Monday night, was that my stance on frontal lobotomies and mental illness was neutral and rooted in the 1950's. The question was raised that where was my opinion on all of it? This is bearing in mind that I'd only performed the first 15 minutes of the show, and I think an opinion does develop throughout the 55 minutes of the whole show - one that is not in any way in support of experimental brain surgery to 'cure' mental illness. Should I have an opinion? Or allow the audience to form their own? Another comment I had recently when I performed the whole piece at The Albany in London, was 'Why didn't you say "I'd rather have a bottle in front of me, than a frontal lobotomy?" I was waiting for that line!' Yes, the whole show hinges on the zinger Tom Waits dropped on a 1970's chat show, and the truth is I did say it during the Edinburgh run. But it always felt too clunky, that I was subtitling, and not allowing space for the audience to work it out for themselves. I'm still figuring out who this woman is, and why she's here, saying all of this stuff. I got put on the spot the other night... strangers demanding answers, it was interesting!
So I'm coming to realise, with every performance and every conversation, that I'm crassly dividing audiences into two camps: those that want to know what it's about, and those that haven't a clue what it's about, and welcome that! However, I've sat through a lot of shows that I didn't understand, and knew that the company didn't want me to understand, and that just made me angry. If you've ever seen a Forced Entertainment show, then you'll know what I mean, and maybe you love them - I don't, but I've made myself go and see them several times. There's something infuriating about the black nosed clown, it's an arrogance that's very fun to play, but can lead the audience into all sorts of negative emotions. I know this from my work with The Mist: We Are Not Cakes - there's a fine line between a celebration of absurdism, and being deliberately, nihilistically annoying. I don't want to alienate an audience by making them feel that I'm withholding any form of explanation on purpose.
I had a very useful and balanced review written about the show from my performance in Leeds, where the reviewer from Theatre Bubble had expressed frustration at not being able to work it all out, but mused that maybe that was the point. She said that my characters were more sketched out than being fully formed, a convention commonly seen in cabaret performance, and that this provoked a more cerebral response in her. Read the review in full here.
A line from the opening speech from the show goes; 'We're going to take an inebriational stroll through the bowels of my grey matter, and rest somewhere between the pre-frontal cortex and limbic system, suspended between rationality and sensation.'
Are we thinking, or are we feeling? A transorbital lobotomy severs the connections between the 'human' and 'mammal' parts of the brain, (to massively oversimplify the most complex and mysterious organ in the body) and somewhere in that brain tissue is where I believe is our sense of self resides - the two halves that need to be integrated.
A quote I loved from the Theatre Bubble review was; 'I was swept along through dreams and images, as if in a dream, from which one wakes up bemused, but happily so.' I had three stuttery dreams last night; one was like an episode of 'Black Mirror', one was rude(!), and in another I was talking to foxes. I'm not innocent when I dream, and if I took them all literally and at face value I would be seriously worried about my state of mind. As my teacher at LISPA practically screamed at us when we frowned, rubbed our foreheads and whined 'I don't know' during the final neutral mask session on the IMPP course in Berlin "YOU DON'T HAVE TO KNOW!!" But we want to know don't we? We want to work it all out and then file it in the 'dealt with' drawer. I remember going to see a production of 'Cleansed' by Sarah Kane years ago, that left me so emotionally distraught immediately after, that I had to go and hide in a toilet cubicle until I'd calmed down. My boss at the time who I'd gone to the theatre with, said he felt jealous that I'd been so affected, when his response was cerebral and objective. I felt horribly embarrassed of my response at the time, and longed for more objectivity. Neither reaction to the show was the 'right' one to have, in hindsight both of us enjoyed it in our own way, but it was our self-judgement and comparison that could be seen as negative.
I think what I'm trying to say here is that I can't tell you anymore about what my show is about, anymore than I can interpret my dreams for you, read your mind or control your imagination. Someone said to me once that dreams are like your brain taking a shit. My brain has a shit every night, a beautiful shit. Your brain has beautiful shits every night too. And that's all this show I made is - my beautiful shit, made as visible and audible as I can make it, with as much care and craft as I can manage. I'm not ready to 'know' what it's about yet, and maybe I never will. But you are most welcome to tell me what it is about for you.