Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Rehearsing "Leave To Remain"

When we first devised LEAVE TO REMAIN I was still grieving for my partner Susie Innes, and Suzanne Dance was still grieving for her mother.
We didn’t really know what we wanted to do. Or rather in a way we did - we wanted to create something that would help us and would also help our audiences. We knew that, like us, there were many people who had suffered bereavement and had experienced difficulty in finding ways to talk about it.
This isn’t healthy, and we wanted to see what we could do about it.
We groped our way forward, stopping every now and then when one of us burst into tears.
As time went on, these were often tears that usually took us by surprise. Jumping out at us and overwhelming us when we least expected them. And even if we didn’t cry our minds often went blank with grief, and the whole business of performing left us feeling dangerously exposed.
Taking that kind of excessive emotional risk doesn’t help anybody; so we decided to perform script in hand “in case”, as the script puts it, “we get ambushed by grief”.
Susie died in 2005, and I keep thinking I’ve “got over it”, as you’re supposed to. Besides, we’ve performed this so often over so many years and I’ve started to get deeply impatient with these scripts. My hunch is that I’d perform much better without them.

But maybe it's not about "performing". As we also say:

"This isn't a play.
We're not pretending to be other people".
Today we had our (only) rehearsal in the space in which we’re performing: the Lady Chapel of St. John’s Church.
It’s a beautiful space with a strong spiritual atmosphere. But we weren’t thinking about that too much, being more preoccupied with how we were going to move, and where and when we were going to stand and sit. The usual technical things. And for some of the time, too, we were sharing the rather tiny space with an utterly charming and very gifted Irish painter who was trying to figure out where he was going to hang his paintings.
And then we got to my speech
“Susie died at the height of her powers.
She was one of the cleverest people I have ever known 
And cancer destroyed her beautiful brain....”
And there I was. Ambushed by grief. I couldn’t stop crying.
I got to the end somehow and then it was Suzanne
“A few hours before my mum died
I fed her porridge and honey...”
And she, too was gone. We hugged each other helplessly a while. 
Harriet, our lovely cellist, played us some music, and it was one of those occasions when you’re so glad you’re in a rehearsal.
And we got to the end, and the venue’s technical manager started to drill holes in the walls.
And I think that maybe I’ll keep my script in my hand after all.

LEAVE TO REMAIN: St John's Church, West End of Princes' St., Edinburgh. 13th and 14th August at 4pm; 20th August at 2.00. Part of the Festival of Spirituality and Peace:

Ah Jo, the grief just takes you unexpectedly at times doesn't it? I allow myself to fall into it when it washes over me, and as the pain seeps through my body, I am still surprised by it's power and strength, but I also reminded of my deep never ending love. Pain & love go hand in hand....
All the best for the 13th, 14th and 20th...allow yourself to be whatever you are in that moment....
S xxxx
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