'Frontal Lobotomy' has it's second public viewing at the Rosemary Branch Theatre last night, and I had an interesting conversation with some friends afterwards about whether it was ever 'a good idea' to give someone a frontal lobotomy...If someone is psychotic, or suicidally depressed, then at least there is a small chance that it could take the pain away. But does pain define our humanity? If we don't feel pain do we have an honest sense of self?
I was asked some probing questions on what point I was making in this piece after the performance last night, questions that I can't fully answer yet. For a piece of theatre that doesn't fit neatly into a style or dramatic territory, and seems to deal with several thematic layers, it's difficult to pin down the overall message.
I know my point of departure was the world of Tom Waits, the impetus to make the piece came from several sudden life events, and the work has unfolded and developed through encompassing the experiences of the past nine months. I've written something that covers mythology, psycho-surgery, psycho-analysis and feminism, and somehow within that what ties those themes together is the sense of self. What is the self? What is My Self?
I start the performance already onstage as the audience enters, with my back to the seating, but viewing the audience through a mirror. The reasons for this image are that through my research I discovered that traumatised individuals have no sense of self - they literally do not recognise themselves in a mirror. The other reason is what Peter Levine calls the Medusa approach to healing, in that we don't face trauma face on, for the danger that it could 'freeze' or re-traumatise us. Instead we tackle it indirectly, such as in the Medusa myth. Perseus doesn't look directly at Medusa, but he can see her reflected in his shield. I don't expect the audience to pick up on these details; the image stands alone as something powerful and visually arresting enough to open the space, and it's a good way of 'meeting the audience', which I've seen other performers do as a way of putting everyone at ease. But maybe it can resonate on a deeper level, I hope so...
So, here is as much of the feedback as I can remember from last night. A large portion of the show did not go as planned, though I was overwhelmed by the support I received from friends in the audience.
* It's very difficult to define what you've made here. It's like a visual representation of a poem, in the Modernist tradition, like TS Elliot.
* It's like a dream. I don't understand it, but it takes me somewhere.
* I'd be happy just seeing you read those poems aloud, but all of the other theatrical elements you've added make it really beautiful.
* You're very powerful onstage, very engaging, but you're being too careful. What's underneath? You could move a lot more. Think about vibrations.
* You seem much more playful than last time, I love how much you engaged with the audience, and the story at the start brought us in.
* Perhaps you get tied to the piano, I think you can let the mime at the start go, and then come back to it. What you're saying is more interesting than the mime.
* I liked the song at the end, own the singing, even if it comes out wrong.
* It's very strange. I don't know what to call it. Maybe performance art is closest.
* The Walter Freeman bits seem to stick out too much, and don't fit with the rest of the style.
* Loved the Showbiz and Apocalypse. Like a sad clown. It was quite dark, not what I was expecting.
* You should try and enjoy it when it goes wrong, it will go wrong now and then.
* The solo puppet is disturbing, and I love the band! Can you make more of them?
I know I've made progress since the last preview in May, and there's so much further I can take it. I feel like after Edinburgh it will be a different show altogether, and I might know the some of the answers to the questions my friends asked me last night.
I have one more London preview to prepare for - Tuesday 26th July at The Bread and Roses in Clapham. I have two rehearsal days to try and work in some changes, but what excites me now, is that I know this piece will never be 'finished', and the mistakes and mishaps are really little gifts. And I'm fine with that!