The Writer's Resident Director, Piers Black, shares a poem he was inspired to write, during the rehearesal process.
A script that debates the struggle in both being a woman and being an artist has called for a largely female team to devise a way of putting the female creative process on stage. The layers of meta-theatricality do not stop there. Ultimately, it has led to a lot of honesty; those involved speaking openly from their own experience about being artists and being women, and how one impacts upon the other.
This honesty developed a passion and urgency in the rehearsal room that was humbling to witness. I was initially quite intimidated to start rehearsals, knowing well that the play, in more than one scene, dissects power and the patriarchy in the form of a male director telling a female artist how she is allowed to make work. I struggled a little to see how I could contribute anything that might seem like a solution, whilst simultaneously being so aware of myself as part of the problem. Inevitably this concern was quickly answered by the compassion of everyone involved, all of whom made sure that every voice was heard, respected and considered. No one was talked over.
There was something very moving about the first week of rehearsals for that reason. Ella had said that she was excited about the next generation of theatre makers starting with thumping feminism. I went home one evening and wrote something that I had never imagined would be read; it’s an abstract thought from the next generation of boys, about how hopefully the experience I’ve had in the rehearsal room will be indicative of a brighter future in which the world addresses the balance.
Blood on the Carpet
They carry me carefully. Like a
group of aunts who know they can’t
turn me onto the streets. Or
they’ll be the ones who have to
deal with the fuss.
As I enter the world no one coos or
marvels at my hair. No one smells
me or asks me to try and talk. I am
to clean up my own shit.
I start lost. The world seems not
as I expect it to be. The people
who told me the rules aren’t there
anymore and no matter how hard I
try I can’t find them.
The aunts gather around and talk
about my dad. They talk about him
in front of me. He is my flesh and
blood but they don’t hold back.
He has hurt them all. He belittled
them, he molested them, he spoke
over them, he tortured them, he
doubted them, he conquered them, he
sacrificed them, he punished them,
he impregnated them, he ignored
them, he raped them, he forgot
I want to tear him out. He is my
flesh and blood.
I want to speak to my mum. I want
them to speak to my mum, and then
they’ll understand. She’ll explain.
I wait for her to turn up but she
doesn’t. I can’t see her anywhere.
I call out into the new world, but
all that replies is the eyes of the
aunts, sinking to the floor.
They cannot bring themselves to
tell me that I killed her as I
entered into the new world. There
are no dads allowed, but mum should
be here. Mum is the one who told me
about this place. She’s the one who
showed me the pictures, taught me
the language, told me the bedtime
I find out she’s been secretly
designing it for me to live in. The
aunts thought it was just for them
but I’m here now, and they don’t
know what to do.
We set to building. They pretend
that they can’t see my dad in me,
and we concentrate on making it
safe. Making it dad-free. I’m
worried about where to put my
bricks. They seem stupid in these
houses. They’re too big. Too
coarse. Too of-the-old-world. I try
to make my bricks look like those
of the aunts, but I don’t want them
to think I’m copying.
I sit outside and cry where no one
can see me. My problem is small,
and my aunts are so strong. They
don’t need me to cry, they need me
I speak the language my mum taught
me as well as I can. It has the
accent of some of my friends from
the old world, some teachers, old
girlfriends. It sounds sticky in my
mouth. I end up listening.
Listening for hours because the
aunts speak with perfect dialect.
They speak with honesty and bravery
and I absorb it and I feel blessed.
They become my sisters. My eyes
apologise to them, because I don’t
want to get in the way of their
words. I want them to scream and
shout, and know that it won’t scare
me. But they know that already.
They don’t hold back. They burn
together. A fire that has had to
hide itself for fear of setting the
old world alight. But the new world
needs it, the new world is built on
a sea of fire, so we all remember
what was burnt underneath.