Forever in Your Debt: power of a woman

26Jan10

We’re into week 3 of rehearsals for the forthcoming Foursight / Talking Birds collaboration Forever In Your Debt.

Week 1 started with a read through of writer Nick Walker’s draft no. 5. It ended with the jaunty singing of composer Derek Nisbet’s tunes. In between was oodles of character exploration with impressive vocal gymnastics from my co-performers and the search for a physical vocabulary for the show. The piece is commissioned by The Courtyard (Hereford) and Warwick Arts Centre and we’ve been granted access to the hallowed luxury of the new WAC Creative Space for our rehearsal period; warm and light-filled (freakily unfamiliar conditions for this kind of work). The only downside being the vast glass panes on the north side of the rehearsal room which ensure everyone outside gets to see the degradation we put ourselves through in the name of art. Consequently, the level of productivity on the University’s re-landscaping project reaches a new low. Small groups of labourers, gaping slack-jawed at us, in their luminous vests ‘midst the snow. Later, a class-load of visiting school-kids seen pointing and laughing as they wait for their bus home. It’s great to be working though. I’ve raided the last of my savings to pay for the day ticket that’ll get me in to work, but pay-day is nigh! By the skin of my teeth, once more. Ha!

Week 2 and a slight thawing. The set has arrived, and all our imagined physical work has to be reconsidered. Then we get our instruments out and reconsider again some of the urgent practicalities. For example, the dance routine I was working on – I’ll now have to do it with a socking great bass guitar strapped on, and a lead trailing behind me ….across a raked stage. Co-performers Emilia and Allie are looking at their expensive instruments in a scared kind of way. For me the enormous task of not only learning the musical parts but … firstly learning how to read music… secondly learning how to sing …starts to hit home. I’m playing the part of Pippa (the sex-change father) and to compensate for any self-consciousness in my lack of musical ability I decide to flit freely between the bass, the baritone, the tenor and the counter-tenor ranges. It’s part of my broader life strategy – to keep constantly on the move so I can never truly be found out. Curiously, I find the counter-tenor the easiest of all. This becoming a lady business seems to be-coming to me quite naturally. By thursday I’m on fire, energy-wise, but then have a funny turn at lunchtime. Is it aged-ness agitating my invincible performance-self? A phone-call to my boys’ mum later confirms a different story: “Oh yes. I had the same symptoms this morning”, she says. “Our cycles are in sympathy. You’re pre-menstrual”.

I survey the scene out of the enormous window, but there’s no gawping attention from the builders anymore. They’ve got bored and returned to work.

Week 3 started this morning. Up ’til now I’ve been playing my bass without amplification. As a result, I was bloody magnificent, (if only you could’ve heard). Today, however, a mini-practice amp arrived – courtesy of Jill. So I got rumbled. Anxiety levels started rising, in the realisation of how much work there is to do. Designer Janet gave me Pippa’s bra that she’s been padding up, so I wore it for the afternoon, under my top. This most definitely cheered me up. I can’t tell you what the builders made of it, but the sight of my seven female colleagues staring, open-mouthed, at my chest gave me an extraordinary insight into a world of womanliness. The power of a woman … and yet also the peril, perhaps.

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