What Will Happen Next (Emilie Collyer)
We called the show ‘Maybe we’re never together’ – so what did we expect?
Right at the very end, once the show was over, someone said to me: ‘So it was about searching, wasn’t it? It was about searching for something that is difficult to find.’
And then of course, the week after our season finished I found that great quote, the one by Tadeusz Kantor, where he talks about theatre as a place of memory, which is exactly what we were attempting to create. And he put it so beautifully, and our effort was still a little bit clumsy and inarticulate. But it made me smile, that smile of recognition. Oh yes! That was what we were doing.
But that was after.
In the beginning it was just an email. You asked me if I would like to make a piece of work with you. Later you told me that you were nervous, in case I said no.
The last time we’d worked together was straight out of drama school, in the late 1990s. We had that corporate act, the two cousins: fFanny and fFleur who went to events like the Grand Prix and the Australian Open and Shopping Centres and entertained people.
I’d gone more down the path of writing and you had moved into the world of physical and devised theatre and performance making, although, to be honest, you have always had a way with words. You’ve always been something of a writer.
We didn’t sit down and say: Right, let’s make a show about two women who betray each other.
Our process was painfully, wonderfully, excruciatingly open and experimental. I set you writing tasks. You set me performance tasks. I brought in clothes to muck around with. You got me to do spatial exercises. We had long conversations. We started recording our conversations and collating our emails. You suggested we develop a language of physical gestures.
We’ve spoken about the various creative development phases and how one of them was particularly difficult. It was winter and we were in a cold studio and we sort of hated each other in a stubborn, head butting kind of a way. That was after we had spent hours and hours and days putting together funding applications to try and get money together for the show. So many hours spent describing this show that did not yet exist. We wrote about post dramatic theatre and contemporary practice and the desire to both provoke and engage our audience.
And about a year after deciding to work together and having generated all of that material and with our season confirmed in the Big West Festival for November 2011, we still didn’t really know what the show was about or what would be in it.
We liked the lists. We liked the audio where we talked about the weird things that go on inside our minds, how you think a lot about disasters, such as what would happen if you dropped a baby and smashed its skull. How I think about how hard it is to say the names of people I am in a relationship with.
We had a beautiful image: us in petticoats in that bluestone lane way with the petals all over the ground. We toyed with Samuel Beckett and Miranda July. We wrote about life and death and the awkward bits in between. The Festival was worried because it was hard to market our show. And neither of us are famous or off the television and we don’t even have another interesting job aside from theatre, like being a doctor or a chef.
Is a show about women’s friendship interesting enough? Where we look for love? What we hope and fear life may be? How we can be cruel to each other?
It made people laugh. Some were shocked. They wondered at times, which was my voice and which was yours, which were my stories? When my family came I was nervous. It’s funny how we can get most nervous about showing ourselves to the people we are most close to. Which were your stories?
When it was all over it was easy to pack away. I took home the small chair and all of the underwear. You took the dress to be dry-cleaned. I still have the cardboard man, although his right arm got a little bit bent.
We didn’t talk for a few days and I wondered what you were thinking. Echoes of the show haunt my speech, my gestures. I hear us, on a loop, the music of our voices. The show is becoming a memory, something from the past that will be replayed in our minds eye, part of the dissolve between what is real and what is imagined.
And we don’t know what will happen next.