It’s Tuesday the 6th of May. I’m writing a column! This is a novel experience for the year; an unprecedented venture and let’s face it, the possibilities are endless. WHO KNOWS what I might have been doing during my online absence.
I might have been riding elephants in Zimbabwe, or parachuting from dizzying heights in Mesopotamia! I might have changed careers entirely and become a librarian, finally realising my fantasy of wearing sexy business-lady clothes and passing Lady Chatterley’s Lover to a young man whilst suspended on a ladder – whilst I’m suspended on a ladder, not him. Otherwise he’d be a window washer and that ruins the whole aesthetic.
All these things might have happened! But instead I did a clown show, fell in love and went to Hobart to write operas with kids.
I could have said that at the beginning I suppose, but it’s always more fun to dream and be ridiculous before you get to the facts. Or maybe it’s better to disguise the facts within the dream and the ridiculous. So maybe I should have said I did a clown show on an elephant, fell in love parachuting in Mesopotamia and wrote an opera about a library in Hobart. Or, for more dramaturgical coherence, I could have fallen in love in mid-air first, become embroiled in dire circumstances with my beloved in the African jungle, somehow extricated myself from impending doom, made peace with the locals and turned it all into a hilarious 50 minute show for our mutual enjoyment (with said elephant), then many years would have passed until I became a hunchbacked old widower working in a Hobart library, where a young girl stumbles across the opera I wrote about my life, blows the dust off it and begins to sing…
And THAT is how you write a story.
Look I’m just as confused as you are, but I’ve been reading Around the World in Eighty Days and I saw The Grand Budapest Hotel last night, so I feel that my brain might be making rather bold leaps at the moment. But one thing both those stories have in common is play. So much absurdity and lightness and playfulness. The older I get, the more I believe that this is the essence of life.
But let’s get back to the facts.
I made a clown show – a short one, albeit. But it was ludicrous and sensitive so I was happy. Now I’m working on the full-length version. Hopefully I can keep my sense of play and stupidity alive, because I’d hate for it to make sense and be didactic because that kind of theatre makes me really bored and angry.
Then I fell in love. He fell in love with me too.
Then I went to Hobart to write four 30 minute Operas with 80 high-school students. They wrote every word and every note (although we have two brilliant Music Directors, without whom it would have sounded like Play School had a fight with Justin Beiber). But because of the combined talents of our team, the shows were fantastic and it was truly astounding to see what people can create when they have no creative boundaries and no time. The point of the project is to challenge the kids’ limiting beliefs about their own potential, to show them how creativity doesn’t need any rules and to have the tangible experience of creating a whole show (libretto, music, sets, casting, rehearsal, performance) in 24 hours (4 six hour sessions). Someone said to me the other day “if you have time, you waste it” and I think that’s very true. The project culminated in a final performance at the Theatre Royal in Hobart and it was wonderful.
It was great to be reminded that creating shouldn’t be taken so seriously. Philippe once said to me “your problem is that you put ten kilos on your fun. You stamp all over your joy.” That’s a very sad bi-product of growing up and thinking that being a professional and an adult means being mature, sensible, rational, prudent. They are admirable qualities, but not if they squash your joy.
So it’s back to the rehearsal room to keep channelling my idiot and giving myself licence to look like one. May we all continue to find play, curiosity and delight in our lives, whoever we have become.