Friday, February 18, 2011

I was out yesterday picking up a prescription for my mother-in-law. She's been prescribed patches for the severe pain in her hips and groin. The problem is she has developed an allergic reaction to whatever sticks the painkilling patches to her skin.

The prescription was for an ointment or a cream to counter this discomfort. But the doctor had forgotten to specify which: ointment or cream. And i waited a while in the chemists and then gave up and came home.

Came home to an utterly different world.

To find a worried message from someone in Creative Scotland warning me there was to be an article in today's Scottish Sun attacking them, and me, for their decision to give me a grant to turn JESUS QUEEN OF HEAVEN into a book.

It was a curious feeling going to bed with to await that in the morning. The attacks on the play had taken me entirely by surprise, and so this was different. The article, when it came, was the usual despicably predictable display of prejudice. Of hostility against transgender people; of hostility against arts funding.

It's what you expect from a whole section of the so-called "free" press.

I won't post a link to it because it's not worth anyone's attention. It did, however, contain a quotation from Hugh Henry, a Labour MSP who really should know better.

My son-in-law's dad came across it while he was getting his hair cut, and came home spluttering with indignation. Paul, who's renewing the pebble dashing on my outside wall, hadn't seen it but said "no-one takes any notice of the Sun anyway".

And what's impressed me also has been the support I've received: from kind friends, from the Traverse, from Creative Scotland, transgender support groups, and above all from my daughters. How blessed I am...


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Last saturday I was talking about empathy.

About how it matters in theatre - in fact theatre is impossible without it.

It's fundamental to my job as a playwright that I am able to feel what it's like to be someone else.

And I need the verbal skill to convey that feeling in words in a way that enables an actor to speak the lines: and so embody someone else. Which means I also need to be able to feel what it is to be an actor. And all my colleagues also, so I can work with them too.

It forms an essential part of what gives the audience pleasure: so they can be drawn into the experience of another human being.

It is part of what makes us human. What makes love happen between human beings. What enables human society to be.

It's a powerful political force. It is what was uniting the crowds in Tahrir Square, and all over Egypt, and what is fuelling political resistance in the Middle East right now. A shared sense of each others' sufferings; and a shared determination not to put up with them any longer.

In that sense, authorities fear this solidarity.

I was speaking of all this because i was leading a writers' workshop at the Traverse; and I spoke also about how, as a transsexual woman, I had suffered because the prejudice to which I have been exposed prevents my fellow human beings from seeing me fully as a human being.

Reactionary forces exploit this prejudice for their own ends; and I think of this tonight because I have just been told The Sun is publishing an article attacking Creative Scotland's decision to give me a grant to turn "Jesus Queen Of Heaven" into a book.

It's sad the tabloids are using me as ammunition against Creative Scotland, just as they used me as ammunition against Glasgay.

But deep down it confirms to me that I am right.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Yesterday was Valentine's day, and i was involved in performing some very special love stories.

They had been gathered by Our Story Scotland (
- an organisation which collects and celebrates and archives stories from the LGBT community in Scotland.

This project has to do with collecting stories of love which breaks taboos. Which crosses boundaries of gender or religion or race or custom.

The group has been meeting for a year - a group consisting of just about every gender and sexuality, whose members did cross boundaries of race and religion, shared their stories with amazing pride and courage, and explored them in different forms. Through storytelling, poetry, music, dance and song.

I led a couple of the workshops, and found myself presenting the event, reading a story of my own, and linking the different stories by performing poems that had been written collectively by the group.

Doing so in front of an exhibition of the groups artwork in the really rather unwelcoming context of Hillhead library in Glasgow.

Yet it was a beautiful event, something it is a real blessing to be able to participate in, and a celebration of the love that makes us all so fully human.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Slowly emerging from the intense effort of finishing my newest play.

THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE was commissioned to commemorate the tercentenary of David Hume, the philosopher.

It was fiendishly difficult.

One of its subjects is the revolution in thinking and political practice that is being brought about through the internet; and through the iPhone.

I feel absurdly proud of the fact that as I finished it, events in Tunisia and then in Egypt had begun to unfold. That the immense power of these new media had begun to be used to bring about revolutionary change.

That what I was writing about is actually happening: and in ways none of us foresaw.

And the fact I can't even complete this thought at this moment (2014 on February 10th 2011) because events are reaching their climax.


Monday, February 07, 2011

An Invitation to
'Leave to Remain'
- a performance dialogue and discussion

6-9pm Friday 11th February 2011
at Kilgraston School, Bridge of Earn, Perth £15/£12
(01382 370768)
7.30pm Sunday 20th February 2011
St Augustines United Church, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh £10/£8
8.00pm Friday 4th March
Mission Theatre,32 Corn St. Bath
(as part of the Bath Literature Festival)
£12/11 01225 463362.

We created this performance because we needed to. We had lost people we loved and there was nothing happening in the theatre that could help us forward.

And having created this, we discovered we were not alone.

"Everyone has lost someone... But it's as if we live in a world where death never happens, or at least never gets talked about. Or mourned or lamented in a collective kind of way. "

This is a unique theatre experience: a safe space where we use ritual, storytelling, silence and exquisite music to create
"something we can all be part of together, that can help us go through the journey, the dark journey of mourning...

... and then come out into the sunlight and the joy of living."

The performance includes a discussion afterwards that people can stay for if they wish. Almost everyone does.

Written and performed by Jo Clifford and Suzanne Dance.

Jo is one of Scotland's leading playwrights. She is the author of about 80 plays that have been performed throughout UK and many countries in the world. Recent work includes "Every One" and "Jesus, Queen of Heaven"

Suzanne is an actor, teacher and activist.

They are accompanied by Harriet Davidson, an Edinburgh based freelance cellist and teacher who plays regularly for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

"An extended prayer that may mourn its inspirations, but also keeps their flame of life burning.... There’s no denying the emotional power of the piece... Those gathered are visibly moved to tears by a life and death experience that touches us all."
(Neil Cooper, Glasgow Herald)

"There’s something intensely moving and comforting about this brief and beautiful experience... For those thousands of grieving people in our society who have always felt that one brief afternoon’s funeral is too short a goodbye, it opens up the possibility of something richer, and of a slow reinvention of the vital mourning rituals we have lost."
(Joyce Macmillan, Scotsman)



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