© 2018 Francesca Millican-Slater

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Things get difficult: Indulge in structure and the process.

As often is the way with a new project; things get difficult. I am fully aware that writing a new show that is commissioned by a Repertory Theatre is not difficult in the grand scheme or even the small scheme of day to day living. People just trying to survive. Which is rather the point of this bit of writing. What is it that I am actually doing? That part of writing this blog, is to be more transparent about the process of making a piece of theatre as individual writer and a performer. 

 

Currently, globally and locally, fear is present, anxiety is at every turn. In people fleeing from violence to loss of industry and jobs to those sat across the dining room table in discussion about what might happen next. In the next year and the year after that.  At least there is that table. 

 

Theatre reflects and is reflected in the world that we live in, the zeitgeist, form and stories that feel necessary to be told will change in these reflections. As it is within other cultural forms; protest songs are coming back in pop, no longer the faint whiff of embarrassment and hemp,  Theatre is entering a more Political phase once again.  Not that it ever hasn't been, I am perhaps, referring to small scale, one person, two person, contemporary work. Because it has too? This is a question. To feel relevant, to say something, in the current financial climate, in the current global collapses -is it enough just to tell stories? 

 

And I am writing Political with a capital P, because that is not what I have dealt in previously. Small p, maybe, with small stories, because I've been immersed in history , and sometimes you can't ignore the large events. History just keeps repeating itself. 

 

And I think that is what I am still trying to do, tell small stories to some effect. To trust the audience to read the bigger picture in themselves. Or themselves into the smaller story. 

 

We are bombarded with, overwhelmed by stories. They are used to sell to us, manipulate us and tell us how to think. And what to buy. I read an article about massacres, militias and displacements in Burundi. To even make this reference I had to look up the name of the country despite having posted the article to Facebook to show support and demonstrate my own care in the clicking of a button. I read, scroll down to a paragraph where a mother of five children, whose husband has been shot tells of fleeing her home because her support for the president was not in evidence enough. Blinking next door is an advert algo-rithmed  just for me to 'Enjoy a unique way to explore Britain...' Try a Narrowboat Holiday. Another day when I re-read that article the flashing box next to the desperate woman was this time for a nice pair of trainers. We read in snippets and brackets and half finished sentences. 

 

I am trying to find structure in what I do. Of what I am writing. Reflect what the bigger picture is. In general. Online, how we treat each other, in person and as avatars. What technology is doing to touch. The physical. Do I try to replicate the cut and fractures we're sold, violence made casual by sales and desire or do I try to offer solace in single stories and those moments? A calmness, a deep breath in the night. 

 

I am trying to make sense of strange stories that I have written that seem to want to be told at night. Or the pretence of it. Stories don't quite seem real. That are based in truth, but invented in other senses. Do we need more fiction? This is another genuine question. 

 

I have a conceit; a live late night radio show, but I don't want to pretend. I have a concept; the structure of a sleepless night, but I am used to being explicit in the explanation of a structure. I have stories, lots of them, some only a line or two long, some nearing 1000 words. They are not all about sleep, or the sleepless. They are about loneliness and lack of connection, of acts of kindness and cruelty and violence in fate. 

 

I have written adverts, tongue in cheek, deep in irony for my make believe (though I'm not comfortable with pretending) radio show, but does this go anywhere to saying how corrupted we are by the want to solve problems with a purchase of something. Anything. 

 

I can't quite seem to fit all these things together. Every part of what I am used to as an artist is a want to explain, write an essay, show a presentation, based in truth. Or someone else's life, and some of my own. Be explicit in what I am trying to do. Be clear. Entertain. Make 'em laugh.  And wonder what else are we doing but trying to get through the night. Should that be a line that I say in the show?

 

It is familiar this feeling. A new crush, a new lover. An intimacy you fantasise for, a face you thought you would know,  but when you're right up close, lip to lip, half looking it in the eye, you see ...lines, crevices, eruptions in the skin, new kinds of places that you are unsure of. That scare you. 

 

And it's about not being good enough, which is standard in artistic process. And ego. From the height of what I think my words are worth to the depth of when I know they are not working hard enough. Until I become comfortable in this peice's skin, and stop worrying about what it could of have been. Or be. That's a year from now. Or might not be. It could be wrong. I could be wrong.  

 

I try to be transparent about this; there is humility in performance somewhere, but in order to get up in front of an audience that have paid money to see you, me, someone do something, you have to believe in what your saying. I do, anyway, I have to see the story I'm telling. That makes it necessary to be live and in the room with those people. 

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