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Monday 5th October 2015:

So. Here we are. Back in the making space for We’ll Meet in Moscow. I am loathe to call it a rehearsal room. It feels more like a meeting place for all the different disciplines in the room: writing, movement, sculpture and direction. Even as we move into a phase of trying to find something ‘concrete’, ‘whole’, it is about meeting, about slippage. It feels dislocated and yet deeply connected, but in understanding all that I feel okay in my state of not really knowing.

I am in it even, when I am an observer. Does that make me, as a writer, an active observer? Can there be such a thing? There are plenty words written down, hidden inside a folder, but on these new begin-again days, it is right we root the performers and their bodies in the space, with one another, with the unpredictable materiality of the sheet.

Belinda Chapman and Michelle Ridings are new to the performance work this time around and it was clear from the outset they had a connectivity, and a listening-in to one another. We are a very local to Devon team and I am proud of that. It is again apparent today as Jane guides them through a series of physical tasks. They work fast. They work slow. They listen and they laugh. A very good sign. I am absorbed in my active listening for most of the day. I seek moments where language raises itself and scribble away as I watch.

        we fall we get up we fall we get we fall we get up / a last dance

We think also about the idea of ‘resting places’, and the Siberian Ice Maiden Ukok found buried from centuries ago. What might we learn from her body in being found, preserved, still marked by ancient tattoos. This definitely raises our curiosity. The ancient and the present, the modern, the lucid and the superstitious. Once she was moved from her resting place, Siberia suffered a series of devastating earthquakes one after the other after the other. Mythology is potent in the space. The ancient doesn’t always like to be moved, removed, and I wonder how her story finds its way into this one of two women falling in love.  

And so everything is rooted in the sheet. It is a landscape, an escape, a hidden vocabulary and world for the two women onstage, falling falling falling falling in love and headlong into the danger that awaits them.

I am asked ‘why a wasteland’ in a piece of text Nix has spoken to us from her notes. I wonder about how it represents something, maybe a state of mind, a metaphorical landscape as well as a literal one, about the Russia psyche. Its vastness. Its emptiness. How do we hold this in a theatrical space? How is it conjured up? There are always a lot of questions, but I think we prefer it this way.  

We talk about the quality of touch and as the performers play and ebb and flow along their own building musicality, we all observe, and afterwards Nix talks about a humble attention to detail. Jane talks about slowing things down. A patience. Patience.  

But it is a language of the work and its world that we are now building and so far it looks beautiful.

Tuesday 6th October 2015:

And so: which lens do we see the work through?

There are such a range of disciplines and experience(s) in the room, the question still is about tuning them in like a symphony: one section unto another and to see where they can speak to us, to the other, to an audience. Patience. A patient kind of listen appears. I like it very much. It is a seeking of something that puts us all in an uncomfortable yet imaginative place. Without sounding overly precious about it. Which I don’t want to be.

Today we focus on touch and the sheet. 

            And then there is touch always touch and the places in between:

                      one touch one touch one touch is all it took

Jane talks about exploring with the sheet with the performers and not just as a one off, but as a commitment. It is. It is a commitment. To be patient with it. To discover the places in between. It has an alluring fascination for all of us. We are all invited in. We play. We commit. I commit.

Opening up spaces for surprise.

I wonder: what am I really going to do with all the words I have written? How do they tune in? Have they resonated at all so far? Where is the somewhere for them to go? To be placed. To be committed too? How can they when all of this work physically already says so much.

Michelle and Belinda are tuning in. They are joyful and a joy to watch. I am a witness to this developing language in the space between them. They take care of one another. They listen. They talk. Verbalising non-verbal work. They are so different. Seeking in a multitude of ways.

            it is a mountain range a bouquet of flowers it is ice on snow

Michelle says its so hard not to create a narrative around it, through it, under it, over it. It is gathered it is flung out to dry it is whipped into a frenzy. We follow it follow it follow it.

There are no right answers at this stage.  

Which is good as we have possibility in the air.

Instead there is a slow unfolding of the sheet (this root) (this vein) (this artery) (this beat) to a torrent of noise (it is crisp and has its own jazz), a battle of wills, a pull and another pull. A pull. The pull of love. Here we are in the middle of a love story. Pulling us this way and that.

There are folds and there are waves. Heaven sent the light in the Top Studio thrills me all day and I move around the room as time forges onwards to catch its warmth, its glow. It suits us. It suits the sheet. It brings halcyon rays into the space. As we move slowly out of summertime. I become deeply aware that winter is on its way.

We have a workshop with LGBTQ women. It is a small gathering, but nonetheless stories get told. We move. We seek out simple ways to meet one another physically and verbally. We talk. We talk about invisibility and visibility, about the external and the internal. The choices LGBTQ people make considering their circumstance. Context is a powerful force. Internal wrestles. People are open and honest and share their thoughts with us in a generous way. It is illuminating. It feels like there is a need to talk, to communicate, to gather, to know more, to embrace our difference across the divides. I want this work to be affirming. I don’t want to promise too much. But I hope we will find hope in the work.

Wednesday 7th October 2015:

As I arrived in the space this morning it was in darkness as Nix was projecting images of the Ice Maiden. Powerful enlarged in the room. We are hooked.

Sophia brought in a reinforced fibreglass pole and a stepladder. We had to go and find another ladder of course and this brought a whole new dynamic to the space, and to working with the sheet. New potential. A new potency and so we returned to the Ice Maiden and her tattoos as something to illuminate the sheet. Sophia talks about the sheet as something architectural and what it now offers with other objects in the space to work with.

The ladders bring in an industrial feel, something else against the softness, the allure of the sheet.

I keep hearing the sounds the sheet is now making and I wonder about that. It is swaying and creaking and almost as if in a breeze. It is whipped up when spun around when on the pole.  

The performers climb up and through the ladder. It is just so different. It brings a new sense of humour to the making space.

There is talk of shrouded furniture, making me think about Sally Potter’s film of Virginia Woolf’s book Orlando, where Orlando has made a return to her country estate, previously there as a man and everything has moved in the film across time, across centuries, across history, a life, a history determined by gender, and the furniture is shrouded by sheets. We are shrouded here by something.

The weight and pull of the sheet on the pole as it is swung around reminds me of Soviet flags, for Belinda Chapman it is like an axis of time, moving, pivotal.

We discuss the objects as the things that they are then the things that they are not or could be or signify or meet in the performance. They are gateways and Jane asked how they then partner each other rather than just being one thing and then another. How can they create a territory of their own?

Belinda Dillon talks about perceptual shifts that have arisen from the ladders being in the space. This idea of perception excites us.  

We laugh and we listen and we agree what it is to make someone else laugh.

Then text arrives in the space and we play with a couple of pages from the writing I have done. I hear the rhythm, I pedantically cut odd words to hear it again. Nix records and the performers respond physically. It is revealing and helpful and illuminating for us all. We feel the musicality to be found and played with in the text and Nix talks about how we release this.

Then Jane wondered about how love can be conveyed onstage. It is not an easy thing or a thing to be taken lightly. Longevity was discussed. I keep thinking about ‘Not love not yet’ words on the page. How might these be shaped into the world of the piece?

                         Not love not yet

It is a weight in the room we will seek to seek answers too. Knowing we might not find them.  

It has been a wonderful time.  

Thanks to everyone for making it so rich.

Natalie McGrath.