By Lorna V
I was about to tick the archive icon for the email from Thea Jones, Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) Project Coordinator, when the absence of the word ‘not’ jumped out and whacked my brain in time. That’s how accustomed I am to reading ‘You have NOT been selected’.
What does it mean to me as a creative person to be selected by the BAC team to perform at Freshly Scratched solely on the basis of a written application? It’s like the Gods have converged on Mount London Shard and decreed this (creative way) is my way. It’s a significant sign to continue.
I’m not a trained actor or a professional dancer. I’m not young. I’ve performed monologues that comprise my one-woman play in development seven times in the past year. On paper that’s not much of a track record to back up a proposal for something that combines theatre with elements of dance and impro, and is presented to the audience as an experimental chat show format in just ten minutes.
I do have a track record as a writer. Yet despite being shortlisted for the Verity Bargate Award, invited onto Soho Theatre’s one-year Writers’ Attachment programme, commissioned to write a play and showcased at various venues, I’ve yet to hit ‘the big time.’ My work didn’t quite fit. I and it were too this or not enough that.
As a journalist with a long career writing and editing for newspapers and magazines, the attraction of moving into other forms of writing was creative freedom. To then come across barriers was frustrating. When I edited the Sell Out (lifestyle) section of Time Out I had ample creative freedom. The journalist me was used to being respected for having a sense of trends and being part of creating a zeitgeist. So it was disappointing to keep hitting a wall in my creative writing ventures, mostly along the lines of: ‘Oh but how will this/you be marketed?’
It was rejection and frustration that prompted me to say yes to performing my work when critic-turned- curator Donald Hutera asked me to write and perform a little something for Chelsea Arts Collective. We’d met years ago at Time Out where, fortuitously, I was seated next to the theatre and dance sections. Donald stood in during vacations for the dance editor, and though I don’t recall why exactly we went together to a workshop with the film guru Dov Simens, it was a pivotal two days in our friendship. I had yet to embark on theatre or the hobby that would become the basis of my one-woman show.
It was Donald who a little over a year ago reminded me of my closet fantasy to some day, when I grow up, write and perform a one-woman show set in the world of my hobby, Argentine tango. After that first attempt in Chelsea he invited me to be part of the GOLab edition of GOLive Dance and Performance Festival, based at the Giant Olive Theatre in the Lion & Unicorn pub in Kentish Town (the same location where BAC’s Artistic Director David Jubb cut his producing and programming teeth). Donald fell into helping to develop my writer-performer journey with a project I’ve been calling Tango Journeys.
Things have a way of coming round full circle. Now at BAC’s Freshly Scratched Donald is going back to his former acting days (when he was also a tyro arts journalist). In my script An Audience With Aliki, Donald plays himself interviewing a fictional tango dance diva played by yours truly. As the show’s director he’s also functioning as a movement consultant and, as such, has been instructing me to move with the conviction of a character who is dance guru to the stars. (Note that I am the slowest learner, the one who goes left when instructed to step right and whose one-woman play is inspired by struggling desperately within her dance hobby).
After the yes email from Thea Jones the first thing Donald and I discussed was whether to play safe or take some risks. We both plumped for risk with big excited yelps. For us Freshly Scratched is permission to experiment, dare, enjoy. Instead of looking to put us in an available box and then rejecting us because they can’t find one that fits, the BAC team has given us a glorious space to play physically, mentally and creatively.
I have no idea how the audience will respond, but I do know that we’ll enjoy every second of our ten minutes.