For the past year or so I’ve been working with Emma Deakin, my friend, fellow Buddhist, and Shaky Isles’ Artistic Producer to my Artistic Director, on her first full length play, Expectations.
It had an incarnation in an early 3-day run last year, has been hugely reworked, with Emma putting in many long days re-shaping, stretching and refining her original vision, and opens at Pleasance, Islington next week.
Expectations came from Emma miscarrying a very wanted baby and wanting to find some way of sharing that experience, something that might help her deal with her own loss but also find a way to create dialogue where all too often there is silence. As an actor, writer and producer it made sense to her to use theatre, not as therapy, but as a way to share story. Having lost five embryos myself (created pre-chemo/post-breast-cancer diagnosis), and having been partner to my wife when she miscarried, I also have a desire to see these losses remade into a narrative that can hold them more lightly than our society usually holds them – if it holds them at all, far too often the world would rather we said nothing about loss at all.
Both Emma and I have been very clear we didn’t want to make yet another chamber piece in a black box theatre with some actors shouting about how hard it all is. Miscarriage IS hard. So is cancer. So is every loss, every grief.
Our interest has been in making a piece that ALSO looks for hope. For light. For what else there might be.
And, as a physical theatre company who love to work with live music and recorded sound, we have also explored telling this story in non-linear, non-traditional ways.
Yesterday, someone who hasn’t seen the show (because it hasn’t opened yet), tweeted about it as a “dark comedy”. I don’t think that’s quite right, I think it might be more wild than a comedy as such, and more comedic (in places) than actually funny. But I’m hugely grateful they wanted to share their guess of what it might be, because I want people to consider how we might present darker stories to a wider audience, to audiences who might shy way from anything not-light. And they’re not totally wrong either – we really hope people do enJOY the play. That’s what theatre is for, in part at least, the catharsis of laughter as well as of tears.
What then happened is that a woman (who also tweeted she has had three miscarriages) tweeted “shame on you”, to me, in response to the idea that our show might present miscarriage as anything but hope-less. That it might be funny. She wrote “there is no hope in infertility”.
I am sorry for her losses. I’m sorry for my own, for Emma’s, for my wife’s, for the losses all of us deal with, on a daily basis, often silently, often unable to share.
But I will not feel shame for trying to find hope in the dark.
I will not feel shame for having life experiences and wanting to translate them into work, into narrative, into story that might reach beyond just me.
And I will not feel shame for believing that there IS hope in infertility, that my life as a not-mother IS of value, and that as a not-mother I can be of use and worth in the world.
I know too that the woman berating me is speaking from a place of great pain. I’m sorry for her pain, as I am for anyone’s. But I also know that my experiences are my own, and if I choose to make work from them, or to help another make work from their experiences as I have worked with Emma and her play, then I will feel no shame in doing so.
This is MY infertility. I can do what the hell I want with it, and I will not be told my choice to search out joy rather than pain is the wrong choice.
Here are the details in case you want to come and see for yourself – I think I can safely say it’s probably not like any ‘miscarriage play’ you might have imagined.
5-24 November : Tues : Sat 7.45pm : Sun 6pm
Pleasance Theatre, Islington
Carpenters Mews, North Road
London N7 9EF
book : 0207 609 1800 or Pleasance
Post-show discussion on Tuesday 12th and a signed performance on Wednesday 13th.
ps : yes, it’s likely this woman’s experience is more recent than mine. I hugely feel for her, I remember the rawness of grief then feeling very different than these losses do now. It is more of an ache now, ten years later, than a searing burn. That’s my experience of all grief – it never leaves, but it does change, mutate, often into something I’m more able to live with (except for those occasional shocking slaps grief likes to give every now and then). Even so, I made a cancer/infertility solo show, Breaststrokes, a year after I lost the last of those five embryos. And some of that show definitely was funny. Intentionally funny.
I make work. Sometimes it’s of my life, sometimes not. It’s what I do.
Hi Stella – Thank you to all the not-mothers in the world. You are of huge value to me. You inspire me and you inspire my daughters. Kia kaha. Probably preaching to the choir here, but worth pointing out Brene Brown’s TED talk (http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html). She woke up the next day feeling hot and cold with anxiety, but comforted herself saying “only 500 people saw me”. 12 million views later….
thank you Mary. I haven’t seen it for a while, so will happily watch again. good reminder. xxx