Script Variations ~ part 10

Noisy building work on my block in front of my flat sent me packing to Essex to play with volcanoes (and hang out with Steve, plant some seeds). When Dad texted did I want to meet tomorrow in Greenwich Park I said yes! Regular meeting up with him since the end of lockdown #1 last year, has been a high point of the pandemic for me. For us. Since Mum died nearly 3 years ago, he rightfully started making up time with getting into his music playing, catching up on Irish sessions and socialising. He needed it (Mum had been ill a long time.) But by 2020, he needed a rest. He had been out every night for 18 months perhaps.

With life radically simplified last year, he had more time for family, and it was truly a healing opportunity, still is. Being able to meet in parks when restrictions allow, is a very fine thing. We don’t live close enough for when the rules are tightest, to casually happen across each other in a local patch, so a little travel is necessary. It’s a risk I’d always want to take truth be told, after the horror of lockdown #1 in that respect. The not knowing if… when… And for people living alone, the isolation can be bleak. Being able to meet in a park is a very healthy option.

After spending time admiring ancient trees, elegant deer, Spring flowers, and passing on the week’s thoughts; I walked back to my place and he drove to his. In my flat without laptop, my usual screen suction was curbed. Mobile can’t hold me so long. I remembered old folders I’d wanted to organise; a chore not a treat. From when I’d been at drama school; feedback forms from Spirited Bodies; and especially a Girl in Suitcase script from 2014, through its many edited variations. This, contains golden nuggets in a raw unpolished slab. The file opens on a page which arrests my disinterest. What’s that I wrote? I remember it now but why has it eluded me lately when I had to produce my best work to impress X? I have to scan the play to see what I have done.

It goes like this. In 2009 when life was more precarious, I wrote two pieces of good script. In 2011 when my life was a bit more sorted, I combined them to create the first ‘Girl in Suitcase’. (2010 was a write off until Spirited Bodies began towards the end. 2012 and 2013 were entirely devoted to Spirited Bodies.) By 2014 I was itching to write and perform again, and I had stuff to get off my chest – the narrative of Mother/daughter relationship dysfunction, reached its zenith in the script. I pushed it too far in places, fluffing it out in others. As far as I could get away with. Further! Because I knew my parents wouldn’t see it – up too many stairs and we didn’t film it.

But the words written down – how did I block them from my – – remember that drug I was fond of?

Pieces. I want to hammer myself for not continuing with that script all its rightful way. How could I just push it aside? It needed to be worked up, smoothed out and sharpened. It’s obvious! It reaches out from the page screaming for life —

Hold on, calm down. Real life. The script imagined her already dead. There’s only so much you can keep on with that before — I had to let real life be. Just be. It’s not that the script was unkind; really it gave a lot of depth and compassion, articulating far beyond what was actually verbally possible due to illness. But, that stuff just needs to play out by itself sometimes, without the interference of art, I felt. With respect.

And there was my real life as well as theirs/ours. Connecting with Outsiders and the Sex Maniacs Ball in 2013 for potential Spirited Bodies collaboration, while tantalisingly tempting — I hadn’t been prepared for the attendant trickiness I’d attracted — which took till the middle of 2014 to shake —

There was a lot going on that year. I was heading for a relationship jumble, and by the time I performed Girl in Suitcase again, it was 2015 and I’d decided it shouldn’t be about me any more. It was about mythical Goddesses! And that’s how some of my most daring play-writing got blackholed to the bottom of a file for 7 years.

I performed twice in 2014; in March at Telegraph Hill Festival; and in June at Hampstead School of Art. The THF show had one of the best audiences I’ve performed for. The house was packed and friends were turned away. I was practically walking on people as I tried to move round the stage. I was accompanied by 4 live musicians – Roddy Skeaping and friends, on strings and percussion. That was very powerful and added an extra live dimension where we jammed body and sound in real time. Luckily they were up for working together with me again for the HSOA show. In that second show, my friend – model, artist and performance poet Ursula Troche joined me on stage to perform a few scenes. We had a bit more space this time, another wonderful audience, and artistically the script was tighter. If there’s any performance of mine I could have filmed but didn’t – it was that one. I guess some things are meant to be ephemeral. I even lost most of the brilliant photographs taken by David Alexander Murphy, who I think also lost his copies. Computer melt downs. I just have a few photos. And feel somehow more complete for rediscovering that script.

Images above and below were taken by Ursula at the Hampstead School of Art ‘Girl in Suitcase’ performance, June 2014.

Returning to a One Woman show

The 2011 version of Girl in Suitcase was autobiographical, taken directly from experiences of growing up with and looking after my Mother. It was powerful, but I found it difficult to develop as it was literally so close to home. About my Mother’s deteriorating condition, I felt I was almost dancing with death in a manner of speaking, by writing what was and could be happening, and then performing together with fellow actress Jaki Loudon who admirably took on the role of my Mother (the show can be seen here). It can become a case of art affecting life, and the not knowing what is affecting what more, but the possibility of that being in your hands is not desirable, in terms of the creation of art.

with Jaki Loudon at the Mascara Bar, August 2011, taken by David Alexander Murphy

In 2014 I revived my performance, having had almost 3 years break. This time it was a one woman show where I was accompanied by live musicians. It was both autobiographical, and suitably abstract that it didn’t feel overtly revealing. There were two versions – one in Telegraph Hill festival, the other at Hampstead School of Art. The second accentuated the tragic aspect as I myself performed my Mother for some scenes, most gravely a scene from a hospital bed. Jollity was yet maintained by the stage presence of life model and performer friend Ursula, joining me on stage in another scene for naked dancing.

with Ursula at HSoA, taken by David Alexander Murphy

with Roddy & friends at The Telegraph at the Earl of Derby pub

In 2015 I explored ancient Goddesses with my friends, in London and Norwich. And this year I wanted to go solo again. Well almost solo, as my partner Steve joined me for a couple of scenes, so I was well assisted. This change of direction felt right partly because of the complication of attempting to get a few of us all available at the same time for rehearsals, let alone performances; and also because I wanted to travel with the show. Again this would be simpler just with Steve, as I know that all my friends who were involved last year have their own commitments which would inhibit them prioritising this. Steve and I on the other hand, are keen to travel together, and enjoy travelling with a sense of purpose and a means to connecting with a location.

The show was largely rewritten (I think one scene remained from the previous version), and is now all my own words (with some adjustments from Steve who also enjoys writing), after last year’s more collaborative effort. I would still be happy to revisit last year’s and indeed earlier versions, in the right circumstances.

The new structure comprised of two halves; the first focusing on objectification of woman, the second on reclamation of control and agency in woman’s life. These themes were explored in alternating scenes of movement, monologue, life modelling/drawing, body bloodening/painting/rope-binding, many of which involved audience interaction. Steve wrote about this performance very eloquently and comprehensively here, so I don’t have to! I will simply focus on a few areas of particular note to me.

The familiar life model and tutor scene was recast with Steve performing the tutor – his debut as an actor delivering lines. I was freed up from being a man, which I could appreciate more after not having enjoyed the role the last time round, at WOW. He represented the oppressive male in other scenes during the first half also, providing a figure for me to act against, standing for the law, and domestic violence. In the second half his role was reversed as he became submissive. During the bloodening scene in particular, he became recycled!

I feel I ought to explain a little about the recycling scene (which may be seen here), as it could be interpreted as insensitive or offensive. The monologue is me observing my own habits, not necessarily espousing them, upholding them as an ideal. Sometimes I am obsessive in saving things, holding on to them or reusing them, when arguably I would be better off chucking them far sooner. This applies to objects, substances (including menstrual blood), and also as noted, boyfriends! This is in part humorous, though also perhaps a little too painfully honest. Steve certainly found that part rather challenging as we are a relatively new partnership, and it was as if perhaps predicting our demise. He handled the challenge admirably however, embracing the sentiment and volunteering to be (recycled as) my seat as I posed covered in blood. He has always supported and encouraged my tendencies towards menstrual art, I would add even before we were together, he was sending me links to other performers and artists working along similar lines, as well as articles pertaining to the practice (who said courtship was dead?!)

Lovely quick drawings by Rodger, of the Bride scene, recycling poses, and movement pose

What was probably of greater concern was how exes may perceive this somewhat open interpretation of my ways. It could sound mean, “…it has to be beyond broken before I get rid of it…” In response I would say that this angle is but one dramatic take on my behaviour. Life is complicated and there are many layers. I go for fairly long-term relationships, averaging five years in length, and I am at an age now when I can look back and observe patterns repeated several times over. A lot is invested in the relationship, so letting go when things don’t seem to be going so well, is less straight forward. I want to really understand what is at play, and hopefully learn the lesson that is invariably there. I do believe that unless we complete fully segments of our lives, then problem areas will re-emerge in a new form until if and when we learn and are then freed to move on. There is no point running away from a difficult situation; it is better faced and confronted, then there may be progress.

One might hope a situation would be fixed before leaving a partner, but maybe only some elements are. Equally there may be parts in the other that we have recognised will never work for us, as we have tried until we have made things more broken. I think that’s where I was going with that line, but again, the initial inspiration for it may have been a piece of junk shelving unit I found in a skip.

Real blood and its smell are challenging, especially as the audience come right up close to me to paint on my body, over the bloodstains. Then there is the mingling and chatting after the show. I haven’t washed yet, or covered up, and a significant amount of the blood may have been spilt over the stage as well. This is of course the point.

The body painting has long been a ritual of the audience leaving their mark on me before I “die” at the end of the show. They have witnessed me, heard my story, and by this scene towards the finale, may have formed some impression of me to which they can respond artistically if they wish, beyond drawing me. It is also a chance to connect with me physically. There is a sensuality to brushing on skin, an added intimacy which can be pleasurable, if not ticklish or beyond the bounds of comfort. I open myself up to them and place a certain amount of trust in their hands.

The penultimate scene about competitive women, where I address this very delicate subject is naturally garnered from my real life experiences, and is recent material. I have never felt the tension of competitiveness with various women in my field before to such a degree. It is largely unspoken. Steve was uncomfortable with me writing about this let alone performing it, but I pressed him – nothing has felt so triggering of my emotions during the last year, and I don’t believe it’s all in my head. I don’t think I’m alone, and I think there may be a value to sharing this aloud. I don’t think it’s just my issue, and I think it has gotten worse since the Tory government took hold. We really are all competing more – for income, recognition and opportunities, and social media has made that more blatantly apparent than ever. I’m not convinced that men feel this the same way but fully prepared to hear that they are. It may depend what field one is in. Certainly if you make a living from the arts, you are likely to be vulnerable. I personally felt that it would be worse for me not to say such important things in what is my very intimate show, my chance to reveal my true self. I could choose for that just to be a more polished, ‘public’ version of me, but really, what value would there be in that? I celebrate and I bare all of myself, in the same space. It is an exercise in self discovery and revelation.

While men have generally enjoyed privilege for hundreds, thousands of years; we women are still learning how to exercise that. We are finding our feet, and I really enjoyed feeling and playing with mine during the naked dance sequence, letting loose for a few moments of public wildness and abandon! The ultimate movement of liberation.

The above were all taken by

The same scene may be seen here as performed in Venice; and that show was beautifully documented by Steve here.

I think I will discuss the Venice show myself another time. I am just in the process of reworking it for a further performance there coming up in August. It is wonderful the way it is evolving, for a shorter (20 minutes) show, for an international audience, who were not previously known to me. Truly I am currently very drawn towards revisiting the Mother and daughter script, from when playwrighting was more immediate to me than performance art. Creating convincing dialogue seemed easier somehow before social media took off, eating up our attention span, but it is something I enjoyed and would love to get back to.

Blood Stones by morning light

I wanted to do something for me. To reconnect with myself and the Earth, to feel alive. A simple thing without much preparation, that happened spontaneously. I had thought about this happening, in various scenarios for quite a while now, and yesterday evening walking home with my partner Steve, my plan formed more fully. Less bold than my original intention, but safer, easier, and perhaps more beautiful. In any case, like many things in life, practise may improve it, so better surely to begin gently. Build up to the bold, if that ever wants to manifest.

I put a lot into the Girl in Suitcase shows, and together with creating the safe Spirited Bodies space for the benefit of others, it can at times be exhausting. Yet sometimes, I just want to do something simple. Life is complicated enough, and simple is good. So I ask Steve when sunrise is because he is an early riser, and I set my alarm for a tad before. I won’t have to travel far to make my art in the morning, as I have decided to keep this local. I am going to get a bit messy and being within 10 minutes of my shower will be appreciated. I am continuing a theme developed through several Girl in Suitcase shows of working with the idea of menstrual blood. And like the last show, not just the idea but also the very thing. I am currently bleeding, but the flow isn’t strong yet. Luckily I have several old batches stored in my fridge, and this is the day they have been waiting for!

We go up to Hilly Fields where there is a stone circle. It is not ancient in the usual sense as was created for the millenium by local people, however, “the twelve 400-million-year-old granite boulders were brought from Mount Struie, near Inverness and the two taller stones are known as St Norbert’s Gate are cut from Caithness flagstone, quarried close to Wick in Scotland’s far north, as is the circle’s central horizontal flagstone.” I have really enjoyed celebrating Solstices and Equinoxes at more traditional ancient sites, but it is not surprising that this circle too lends the weight of older realms.

The sun is just out on one side of the hill, and the sky is bright and clear. There is frost on the grass and at this point I am well wrapped up. We see a couple of people in the distance, but not near the stones which are deserted. On the edge of the circle and down the hill a bit by some trees, I put down my bags and take off my thick coat, placing it down as a base for the rest of my garments. They each come off – a chunky cardigan, boots, socks, a dress, loose trousers and pants.

The container of blood is removed from my rucksack and the lid unscrewed. I know this will smell so it is good to be outside, as making paintings with it in my flat has on occasion induced wretching. Strong stuff kept tight for a few months because some time last year I realised there is potential with this substance I monthly shed. I’ve read about its power and have several pictures made with it on my walls, as well as one by artist Eloise O’Hare, mixed with her embroidery. She gave it to me when I performed in Norwich last year at Dandifest, in appreciation of the performance and since I had complimented her menstrual art. She makes so many other types of pictures and sculptures mind, and is an extremely talented artist.

I pour it on my front and legs from a few places, and Steve does my back. There is no smearing, just pouring. It’s not so thick and he wonders if it will be visible in the early morning light with just his phone-camera. We will find out. I clamber on the first stone.

I had wanted to start on the most difficult stone to mount which I had achieved a week or so before when dressed, with Steve’s help. Covered in blood, naked and barefoot however, it seemed less scalable. The ground was freezing so I wanted to keep moving, and decided to start instead with the easiest. Another intention had been to pose on each stone as there are twelve, representing directions and star signs… but in the moment, again I went for simple. With the frost permeating my soles fast I was grateful for each stone that would easily accommodate me! It was enough, and so I went round, and with his lens so did Steve, sometimes nearer other times further.

I come to this hill a lot and have brought friends here. There is a cafe close to the stones that I regularly frequent, and the circle of stones has its own gravity. I have come here in troubled times, and many happy ones also, to share my state of being with the hill, often alone. I have written pieces of script or blog here, and called old friends whilst leaning on a stone. I have been stoned here.

One time last year, I was walking across the hill grieving an old friend who had recently died. I had been in a black hole a while, and then out of the blue I bumped into my friend Vix. She was partying on the hill with friends, and invited me to join them. At first I carried on my journey to buy milk or whatever, saying I would see how I felt on returning. I had explained my loss. Walking slowly back in my daze twenty minutes later, I saw that the group were beginning to dance as the sun went down, under the sky and some trees. I decided to put my groceries down, and felt called to dance too. It was funny because all I had been listening to since Mike’s death, was goth music which he loved so much and reminds me of the times we were close. Here on the hill I was getting down to disco! I had a truly magical time with Vix, healing through dance and laughter. After that evening I started to feel much lighter about the intensity of prematurely losing an old friend.

Why the old blood? Well, it feels ritualistic, and I like that. It heightens the occasion. I am so used to being nude, that to enable me to be released from my comfort zone, there needs to be another layer. Just as people come to Spirited Bodies to have a new experience, I also need that, in my own way. My friend Calu ran a menstrual art workshop last year in my living room, and that was powerful too to share in drawing with our blood. I think it appealed to my desire to recycle as well, as I observed in the recent Girl in Suitcase performance last month.

My old blood is part of me, from me. I may never breed – though I’m not ruling it out, it just doesn’t call. But I will always create, and indeed sometimes with my own blood. To take it outside allows some of it to fall and blend into the ground. My feet are on the ground, feeling the frosty flakes, the icy blades of grass. Lines of blood soon dry on me. I feel exhilarated, padding across the earth quickly to avoid becoming frozen. My toes grip the stones and my arms find my balance.

Sometimes I just want to be, simply myself, but too I think to make shapes. And while just being is comforting; stretching and arching find a new relationship to my arena. The Earth, sky, stones, sun, hill, trees and shadows encompass the scenery for me to move and exist in. I am alive – a dancer, a mover, a performer and an artist. I find such pleasure in my body; with it and through it, and I wanted to feel that now, and to share that with the camera.

Life had gotten in the way of me taking part in some of the great outdoor nude photoshoots of recent years in London and beyond. Being with Steve and hearing of his excitement and passion for them, reminded me that I share such an instinct, in the right conditions.

With Loving Bodies coming up on Saturday, there is plenty to organise and I feel this pressure to deliver. I committed to it, it has my name on it, and I want people to be happy with it. I want it to be a success. I believe it will be – it has its own buzz, since the concept is so powerful, and crucially it is not all down to me. But to remind myself where I am now, who I am behind all the sense of responsibility (and the fear of failure), I dedicate the action of this blood happening on the stones, to my inner self, my truest nature. I let go of the other layers present in my life, and simply add on some of my old blood. A brilliant sunrise and a very loving, indulging partner complete the scenario. For a brief moment this morning, I was making art in nature, and spirited into a wildly organic zone. One I hope to return to time and time again. With thanks to Steve for documenting in pictures my action, and for hearing me so intently, always positively. So much love.

Goddess in Suitcase; part 1

Making the show for Telegraph Hill festival 2015

I choose itinerant self-employed work as it allows me freedom to be myself and to create. Girl in Suitcase is a theatrical performance art work, which engages the audience to draw the spectacle (and participate in further ways). I love making my own work and all the mistakes that go with it. The space, time and energy I take to create is sacred for me.

As a life model I am paid to please others primarily (though I enjoy it too), for their specifications. With Spirited Bodies I create a space for others to develop within (naturally the benefit is mutual). With Girl in Suitcase, while I am not without consideration for the audience, I am mainly doing the work for myself as well as the others involved, and for now (what is wonderful is) without worrying about selling tickets. If there is a very small audience that’s fine. The show is always a work in progress and without funding, it is subject to severe limitations. And yet, there is an unknown magic waiting to take place during the spectacle in the hearts and minds of all present. The unknown of what is Live, full of real life.

I enjoy the process immensely and like to work with friends. Earlier versions of the show, from 2011 – 2014 were autobiographical, about mine and my Mother’s life and were sometimes one or two women shows. The recent show began its life with my friend Sylvie Rouhani and I wanting to make a performance relating to the cycle of the moon, and the ages of woman, or different phases of a woman’s life. I was ready to depart from the personal, and expand into the more universal, and that was a wonderful feeling, like I’d completed some sort of performance therapy phase.

My friend Lucy Saunders had given me a book for Christmas – ‘The Alphabet Versus the Goddess’ by Leonard Shlain, and I was blown away by its feminist take on history and literacy. That inspired me to look at the ages of woman, through history – Goddess culture of the further past, and subsequent lower status of women since the Judeo-Christian-Islamic takeover. We started plotting the structure and themes in January and formulating the script in February. Sylvie was going through some upheaval in her life and could not continue with the show in March, so I asked Ursula Troche and Sabine Zollner to join me. The show was completed in the 3 weeks prior to performance with minimal rehearsals, but some new written and movement material from Ursula and Sabine.

Ursula Troche

Ursula Troche

While the process felt fractured and pressured towards the end, the show benefitted from being the product of 4 women finally, and I hope each of the women gained too. With Sabine’s belly dancing Isis, and Ursula’s call-to-arms poetry, we added to Sylvie’s powerful words. I also wrote parts as well as choreographed, directed and edited.

Isis has an incredible costume (with enormous wings!) and sensual dance which brought a new level of spectacle. Here are some words from Sabine about her involvement in the show;

“I called Esther on a Saturday early March and found her in distress. She told me that the lady she worked with on the third version of her play – Girl In Suitcase – had just let her know she could not continue to work on it, but the performance date was already set – for 3 weeks later.

I had seen the first version of GIS in March 2014 but had missed the second performance where the play had developed further.
I knew Esther was working on a third version and that it was emerging from a one woman show to something else, involving the moon and poems and getting less abstract than before but more related to life models, female feelings and divine figures.
I asked more questions during our phone conversation and discovered that some things appeared like déjà-vues to me: the goddesses Isis and Artemis whom she mentioned had crossed my path before and I was particularly intrigued by the Egyptian Isis of whom I had a clear picture in my head without knowing what exactly she was about at that point. Everything seemed very obvious when Esther explained she hadn’t thought about costumes yet and I remembered a belly dance performance called ‘Isis dance’ I had seen 20 years ago.
I said I had some ideas for Isis as I have 2 Egyptian dance costumes and could add a special veil to them, actually called ‘Isis wings’.
I quickly realised that due to the pressing time scale, the roles and the fact that I’d do this with Esther and Ursula whom I had known for a while too was some sort of fate for me to push myself to try performing – something that I always wanted to try. I knew I could perform as a belly dancer (which I had done a long time ago) but never performed spoken lines!
So I offered to step in.
Said and done we had only two rehearsal dates which made clear that there had to be some improvisation.
I went through my oriental music, let Esther pick the pieces she liked best and then did a very loose choreography on them.
My first lines as Isis were single words – a sequence of unrelated nouns. Esther let me invent movements for these which was relatively easy compared to speaking them out loud.
There was also a short exchange of words between Isis and Mother Mary and I found myself keen to make this scene funny and entertaining.
I think I always liked to make people laugh.
So the day of the performance came and I was not very nervous at all. I knew the space and as people were drawing I knew how they felt as I draw a lot myself.
I also liked my outfit very much – my friend gave me a hair piece and with some help my chest had temporarily grown to quite an impressive size. I also re-discovered heavy eyeliner from a long time ago (which I haven’t abandoned after the play since).
I deeply enjoyed being in the play and as I was one with my role and within our group of three I couldn’t feel more comfortable.
Afterwards, someone asked me if I wanted to model for him which was rewarding and the artwork that was produced was superb.
I met more than one person whom I knew from before but who hadn’t recognised me which made me think that I must look very different “in real life”. I don’t feel different though. Some food for thought.
The least comfortable part was probably seeing the photos and video footage of the evening for the first time. I am very critical with myself – especially as I am not a professional dancer and far from being an actor. However, it was maybe alright. But I also understood that the footage doesn’t matter too much.
The magic of theatre is very closely related to the moment of the performance and everything that goes with it – the energy of the performers and the audience and how they interact. After the play it is over and if it is performed another time these dynamics could be of completely different nature.
And I was glad to have been part of this.”

Cottage Suitcase

I write from the cottage in my bed. Just 5 more nights in this cosy abode, and 4 more days of modelling, only 2 of which will be the same pose I have been doing since I arrived more than 3 weeks ago. For the final 2 days, we will try something different. “Perhaps a back view,” said Gundula the tutor, “with one knee raised on a stool? Something comfortable,” she tries to sound convincing.

I haven’t had it too bad for the past 16 days, sitting upright on a chair with a cushion. Back unsupported, but one arm resting on chair back. Right shoulder blade (of raised arm) aches if I haven’t had enough sleep. Sleep also very important for keeping eyes open. Some of the students concentrate on my face. I hear hands clapping loudly or my name called if I start drifting off. Enough sleep means I have the wherewithal to alter the pose minimally and unnoticeably (I think) should I start to feel a muscle ache.

Pastel completed by Ted Jacobs who founded the school, in the first 2 weeks

Pastel completed by Ted Jacobs who founded the school, in the first 2 weeks

Focussing on the same pose for such a length of time, the students do notice a lot of detail on me. They are training to pick up every nuance of shadow, the different types of shadow – the dark shadows and the light shadows, and every distinction of illumination on me whether from a direct light source – the North facing window, or a reflection from a bright white object nearby (one of my vanguard of heaters). But the light changes every day and sometimes during the day. We have very sunny days and heavily overcast ones, and this causes the most discrepancy. The students are told to work on different sections of their painting when the weather changes, still trying to achieve continuity. Perhaps the background on a grey day.

Trouble is, as November winds on, we get more and more grey mornings. The afternoons often brighten up, but that’s when they do still life, and I am free to roam the countryside.

In the beginning I am utterly taken with this group of people drawing me. They all seem so shiny and healthy, creating a very nourishing environment. Of the 6 students, all from different countries, most follow intricate and healthy diets, veganism featuring quite heavily. The other 2 are French and German; with no unusual dietary habits, just pride in the food they were brought up with. In our village there are no shops, just a bar/restaurant for bikers oddly enough, though you can buy baguettes there if you arrive early. There is a supermarket several kilometres away, and the students fill the organic (bio) aisle when one of them gives us a ride there. I feel a very positive vibe from the group who take their painting pretty seriously. No alcohol during the week, none of them smoke, and it takes me till week 3 to discover the one who is in fact more of a dope fiend than I am. A well kept secret! (And not in France).

My first weekend in the village I am alone – my housemate has gone away, and I get a little depressed. I haven’t yet felt like becoming sociable, I guess partly because I want to maintain my own space so I may achieve the rest here I need (from London chaos), and hopefully get some work done, maybe some writing. There’s something else though, I am still acclimatising and I have not yet settled. I am not used to sharing my home, so being alone is more familiar. I have been enjoying walks around the area, but today feels weird. On the Saturday night I am unable to sleep, and start rereading my book on female shamanism given to me by my sister. It’s the chapter on reclaiming menstruation and it resonates strongly. About how culturally we are conditioned to repress the power and magic of monthly bleeding. I understand this, I actually tend to enjoy my periods as I am more in tune with myself then. I am fortunate not to have a 9 to 5 in an office; I can organise my schedule to some extent as suits me. I can often use my modelling like yoga to create physical positions which open my body, my chakras in a healing way releasing endorphins and harnessing the power of the monthly changes. I know the business of modelling well enough now that I can manage the people I work with to this end if I need, I mean they trust me to do a good job however suits me a great deal of the time. I often get booked for movement poses allowing even more fluidity of posture.

Final day pose I chose myself

Final day pose I chose myself

Beyond the physical, I feel more aware of what I need to do at that time of the month. It is an optimum time for making decisions, and dealing with problems. I have more clout then and will be firmer if necessary. As I read, my depressive state lifts. I fall asleep very late, and on waking I discover I am bleeding. It is unexpected – 11 days early and I am normally very regular. Evidently the countryside affected me, well it had just been a full moon. Perhaps I was falling in with the women around me, and being closer to the Earth, to nature and farm animals, without massive buildings to block my connection to the sky, I had adjusted. My sadness now made sense, as it is quite normal just before coming on; and Sunday was much lighter, uplifted.

During my second week I felt in harmony with the students, I found the pose more comfortable, and I began to socialise. I am unused to doing such a long pose, but it does allow for a more regular meditation practice, as well as getting to know the people drawing you.

By week three I was missing the potency of my period and something felt out of whack again. I’d been socialising a bit more than is ideal for me, and became aware of not relating to the majority of the students in a certain way. Their extremely privileged upbringings were showing more, and I suspected that half of them had never had a job, certainly never had to struggle at all in order to be able to follow their dreams. Nothing wrong with that in itself, but it can make for naïveté and ignorance. Discussions on global problems revealed their lack of awareness on some issues that are very prevalent in the news these days, such as rampant paedophilia particularly among the ruling classes. We were now at one of their friend’s houses and there were 3 other English people in the room; only one of them was on the same page as me RE Jimmy Saville. Surely being cocooned in an art studio in France for several years was the reason so that’s understandable. What I really missed were ordinary people, friends who I could just be myself with. Friends with normal everyday problems who weren’t rich but down to Earth; no airs, graces or pretences. I was nevertheless extremely grateful for the experience, their generosity and kindness. They always treated me well, it’s simply a matter of a different social world, and one with different values to mine. I had no sense with some of them that they desired change in the world in any considerable way; it seemed to be fine as it was for them. In my world, well getting to live out my dreams may take a lifetime if that, but it is all about the journey. And I do want a huge amount of change!

To clarify, as of course everything is relative and by many people’s standards, even my own at times I am living the dream, I mean be able to spend most of my time making my own art. In a beautiful environment with few distractions is like icing. I am sure I may get there when the time is right.

Week 4, and I have the cottage to myself as my housemate has returned to the States for a wedding. I just want to lock myself away and write. It’s hunting season and every time I go out for a walk I can’t seem to resist going on private property – all the best looking stretches of grass, paths and woods are roped off or signed ‘chasse garde’. I don’t drive but I do have a sense of adventure. Trouble is when you have gone too far in, pushed through an excessive amount of brambles and waded plenty of marsh to go back, but you find yourself locked in by some very spiky fence, deep ditch, stream or impenetrable hedge. Then you hear the gunshots, the sun is nearly down and your phone is on the blink. If you can make it into an open field will you be confronted by an onslaught of stampeding cows? This is the countryside, and it can be scary.

To break my routine a little, at the weekend I decided to take a trip. Inside my mind as well as to a nearby natural beauty spot. I had one tab in my wallet, and took it in halves so as not to come on too strong. It’s not the most visual stuff but it’s definitely mental, I mean you can feel it lighting up your mind. The sounds and colours around me and inside me pulse more brightly. As it rains I cross a rope into a wood and find a natural seat on some bark, sheltered by a tree above. I look a long time at the mesh of mosses, lichens and climbers. It’s a young wood I discern by the girth of trunks, and I regard the trees growing entwined in pairs, singly or in groups attached at the base.

On the way back as the sun is setting behind me it starts to rain again, a massive rainbow crosses my path in front like a giant magical gate I want to walk through but can never quite reach.

The boundaries shift, the rain eases and it becomes a beginning and an end with no middle. I get distracted from the path and make a break into a field. This is the part where I see the village church steeple ahead and think cross country will be a short cut but get waylaid by all the aforementioned trickiness. I find myself running, trying to get somewhere safe before nightfall, stripping off layers in my heated sweat. Adrenaline pumping I wonder where my acid zen went. A farm vehicle passes me the other side of a hedge and I am unsure whether to hide or shout, but after it’s gone, I realise it must be moving towards the road. There’s not much light but I can make out the electricity cables; I am on the right track. Back on the road I swagger in exhilaration, the neon pub light glints on the horizon. I couldn’t understand before why such a bright sign; that’s before I got lost in the dark on acid.

By the end of my visit I come to the conclusion that some of the tensions I had been experiencing with the students were in fact due to the way the group was managed by the tutor. It is up to her to set the standard, and I did not sense that she was fully aware of what opportunity she missed. By regarding the model with  a particular reverence, the artists always gain. It is always a privilege to have the presence of a model, and learning to cooperate with them is a huge bonus for all involved. I’m going to leave it at that as sometimes I think it is better to keep things simple.

I really enjoyed that this trip was long enough to be a whole episode. There was a beginning, middle and end. I went off the path a bit in the middle, but I came back and love the whole story. I tend to look for drama where another would find more harmony perhaps, but nevertheless I found a great deal of love and depth in this time from those around me. I was very blessed to meet every single one of them, they all shared so much beauty and friendly times especially by the fireside.

Chateau des Landes

Chateau des Landes

in Cerqueux sous Passavant

in Cerqueux sous Passavant

Chateau de Beaurepaire

Chateau de Beaurepaire

The amazing first post on the Blog of this site! It is about writing and creating the show, plus some art work from a life modelling session.

The show contains life drawing opportunities.

Live musical accompaniment from The Next Room on percussion and strings.

Writing Girl in Suitcase ~~ & Soir a Toulouse Lautrec

A week to go before Girl in Suitcase comes to The Hampstead School of Art. I have rewritten quite a lot to keep it fresh. I know what needs to be junked or rewritten when I am trying to re-learn the lines. If a scene doesn’t feel right, I just don’t want to learn it. I have to get a kick out of each scene. There has to be some sort of continuity, though the show is fairly abstract, playing around with time, me shifting between 2 different characters, which sometimes could be and are the same person. That’s cool. They are Mother and daughter, and as you get older you start to realise, you are becoming your parents whether you like it or not!

The musicians will take on the whole score this time, no recorded music. So I had to get clearer about exactly which lines they were coming in on with which instruments. It’s not easy getting 5 pretty disparate people together to rehearse so time together is very precious. Learning how to think as a conductor or composer is a bit radical for me, being able to articulate what I want from them, but the art of working together is appreciated. It could just be me and my sound system (and at some point it might be) but sharing this process with others helps to get me out of my head!

The writing is something I usually do alone, though there are certain people who deeply inspire me. I take notes whilst in the company of my very good friend Szilvi. She knows me so well and has long been a creative partner of mine. There is this fire in her, I’m not sure if it’s because she’s a Leo or it’s the Hungarian in her, but she describes her pain or her excitement with such delicious colour. Some lines in the play are just plain Szilvi! I rock up at hers on the way home from work on a day when I’ve been totally blocked, and within minutes my notebook is out, trying to keep up with her dynamic spiel. I love that woman.

Then there’s Mum whom the play is actually largely about. That’s hard as feeling too emotional about the content inhibits my ability to engage with it or play with it. Hence Szilvi. Between the two of them I access most of the ideas. In the way that only someone who knows you deeply really can, Szilvi will tell me straight what I need to do. She’s not afraid of upsetting me and she has a fabulous instinct for drama. She doesn’t so much suggest an idea as perform it for me. Of course if she was available I’d invite her to perform, but we are not sharing that particular path for the time being.

My boyfriend Aaron listens to a lot of scenes and feeds back. He loves good writing, usually on television, or science fiction, and has an ear for what works or how I might adjust something.

I’m posting some pictures from a session I was modelling at this evening because I like them so much (they don’t really have anything to do with the show except they are life drawings with me in them!) I was asked to bring in black stockings and high heals. Well it was liberating. I’m quite a lazy girl in general on the girl front, I mean dressing up. Now and again I go for it, but being asked to wear heals, and not to walk in, just pose, was awesome! I could feel the temperature going up in the room! Stockings too, it all got a bit Toulouse Lautrec. Some very pretty artwork so that’s why I’m posting. I tell you, it’s a whole different set of muscles to negotiate in stilettoes, and they don’t get out of my bedroom enough. It felt a little erotic, though actually the poses are very similar to what I would normally do. Just adding some simple French brothel parafernalia makes all the difference. Loosened me right up, it was a nice gift just as the midsummer full moon approaches.