Frontal Lobotomy completed its first London run last week at Vault Festival. Many things surprised me; how nervous I was on opening night, how many people I didn't know were in the audience, how readily people volunteer to have a lobotomy....
I've made contact with several neuro-scientists in recent months, and I'm still trying to formulate my questions for them. I've done some reading on 'The Shadow', this is the next stage of the IMPP journey at LISPA-Berlin that I began in March/April 2016. And I performed an extract of the show at 'Le Chien Noir: A cabaret fundraiser for Rethink Mental Illness.'
The writing has had some editing, and there is a new poem...a very strange poem, quite different from the others. I'm still finding out what to do onstage while it's playing. Rehearsals are a lonely place for a solo performer, and I still wish I could look forward to performing. It's getting easier, and the feedback continues to be positive.
This week, on advice from my Teacher Self, I set a writing task - actioning the text. I wrote down, simply, objectively and without metaphor or explanation, all of the actions I take onstage. I wondered what people actually saw when they come to see the show. I'm still making sense of this thing I made. I feel like it's ready now, in terms of a piece, but I don't yet understand it.
Notes below - bear in mind (if anyone actually reads this) that this is the entire show written out in actions: serious spoiler alert!
A doctor greets the patients outside of the performing area. She warns the people that the procedure will last just under an hour, and may leave them feeling slightly altered.
After a short pause the audience enter to blues music. A woman stands upstage centre, holding a mirror with her back to the audience. The skirt she is wearing, now changed from the white coat and glasses to a black corset, covers the entire stage. There are two shapes visible under the black shirt. The woman flirts with the audience through the mirror.
The woman places the mirror upstage centre. She slowly pulls the skirt away from the stage right lump to reveal a chair with costumes and a hat placed on it. And a pair of red sparkly heels. She slowly pulls the stage left lump to reveal an upturned brown suitcase. She places a desk light and a small puppet on the suitcase.
Such a Scream
During a mythical poem, the small puppet smokes under the light - image of downtrodden man sitting under a lamppost.
The music snaps into chat show music, straight after the light is switched out. The skirt comes up over the woman's head, and she puts on the red braces on her black trousers. She struggles to gather up all of the material of the black skirt, at the same time Tom Waits is being introduced on a voiceover. I'm not Tom Waits. She answers the interview questions as if they were being asked about her. She discovers a brain under the hat, she places the brain in front of her, sits on the chair, and puts on the hat.
A Very Emotional Weather Report
The woman mimes playing the piano and addresses the audience with a beat poem. She reassures them that they will arrive back home.
The music changes suddenly and the woman mimes pushing away the piano. She finds a light in the little brain model, and finds that it lights up her own brain by travelling through her ears. She tries this with several members of the audience. She draws two pictures in the air with the lights and they disappear back into her hat. The music fades and she puts on her doctor costume.
Walter Freeman 1
In the first lecture demonstration the woman explains to the class what a frontal lobotomy is, and introduces Walter Freeman. The year is 1949.
The woman strips out of her clothing, while speaking about lowering the illusion.
My Trauma Has Been Drinking
The woman sways while drinking from a glass and giving a poem about trauma, using shipping language.
Lost in the Harbour
A recorded poem is heard, it is using words to describe PTSD. The woman puts on a red dress and high heels.
Baby I'm Not A Baby Anymore
Burlesque music plays and an ice-pick is seen appearing over the right shoulder of the woman. She dances with the ice pick, mimes stabbing, swirls the tip in whiskey and then licks it. She raises the icepick above her head, leans back and appears to poke it through her eye. The icepick lands and she recites a limerick about frontal lobotomies.
Tit Tape and a Tiara
The woman addresses the audience as a burlesque performer in a rhythmical poem. At the end she goes to switch off the lights, leaving the 'lamppost' as one single light onstage.
How the Moon got her Light
The woman tells a fairytale about a pretty lamppost who saw her reflection at night, and couldn't bear the sight of herself by day, and so detached herself and became the moon. At the end of the story, the woman has changed back into the doctor, and switches the lights back on.
Walter Freeman 2
The doctor explains that frontal lobotomies are at the peak of their popularity in 1949, and further explains how prolific Walter Freeman was in his treatment. The woman asks for volunteers from the audience.
The music changes, she slowly removes the doctors coat and smears her face with lipstick. At the same time her dress rips and she loses a shoe. She staggers into the audience, putting lipstick on a man and staggering back to the chair with Tom's hat and a whiskey bottle.
Showbiz and Apocalypse
The woman swigs from the bottle and tells a poem about her fabulous demise.
Dear Dr Freeman
The woman finds a letter in Tom's Hat and reads it out loud. It is signed from Jeu Jeu la Foille. The hat pours glitter over her head, and she raises it slowly as if she's speaking to a person.
Late Night Conversation
The woman recites a poem imagining she was speaking to Tom Waits. She places the small brain under the hat at the end of the poem.
The woman hastily changes into a leather jacket, and tears off the bottom of her dress to upbeat music. She puts on boots and downs the last of the whiskey. She lip-synchs to the voice of Tom Waits thanking the audience for being there and introducing her band, who are four puppets with toy instruments. The music stops and the band refuse to play. The woman is uncomfortable.
The One Who Got Away
The woman tells a frightening story-poem, about threat and escaping.
A mysterious poem is heard while the woman looks at the audience in the mirror again and then changes into the doctor.
Walter Freeman 3
The doctor explains the disastrous consequences of frontal lobotomies. And that Walter Freeman stills pursues the cure.
Mystical music is played. The woman changes from the doctor. She puts on a black hat and overalls over her dress. She wipes off the lipstick, takes tissues to the audience volunteers. She takes a swig from the bottle.
The woman recites a mass of words - onomatopoeia/the voice of Tom Waits.
The woman tells a long story about how life was born from sound. She draws pictures in the air.
Not Innocent When I Dream
The woman sings a song about her dreams, with each verse she picks up one of the puppets, as they feature in each dream. She puts them down at the end of the song.
Good Old World/Feminine Ending
The woman recites a sonnet, as she manipulates the puppet from the opening scene. He stands up and looks at the stars. He lies down, she places a blanket over him, and switches out the light. Sweet music plays until the end.
The End xxx