I thought I’d share my essay on Nic Green’s Trilogy as a participant and fan, since it was a very profound experience for me, and I am sure, a hundred or more women.
I wrote this last year soon after the experience, and still, a year on, I feel different, than I did before Trilogy.
So here goes:
“Sometimes you see a piece of theatre that makes your heart sing, makes you feel good about all of humanity, and makes you want to stand up and be counted. Nic Green’s Trilogy is such a work.” Wrote Lyn Gardner, journalist for The Guardian about Nic Green’s most recent piece that takes on feminism in a new innovative and challenging way.
It is useful or not to form communities, and to use facilitation conventions in the process of making theatre? The piece itself is contemporarily structured, and involves 40 women getting naked, dancing vigorously in front of an unsuspecting audience. To make this performance moment possible, Nic chose to involve volunteer women to do this “stunt”. What does it take to make a person, who is not necessarily a professional performer to feel comfortable with being naked around a lot of other people, rehearsing dances that are pretty exposing? And then to perform naked before an audience?
In order to figure out how the directorial process of Nic Green’s recent piece Trilogy, is effective in stimulating the performers and then in turn the audience, I intend on finding out what practices Nic used, what the structure of the process was, what she wanted to say, how the performers were affected by the process, and how it came across to the audience, whether or not Nic’s intention behind it met with them.
I was lucky enough to participate in Trilogy when it came to London, so I am going to back it up with my insiders view, experiencing the process, by talking to Nic personally and to studying the piece thoroughly. I also got the chance to interview audience members, give out questionnaires and witness Q & A’s, to get a view of what the general response was, if the message was clear and positively received and whether or not the positive atmosphere of the process translated through to the audience.
ii. Nic Green.
Why Nic Green?
When I met Nic Green, she was one of those people who just spread laughter and joy and a feeling of being included. And on the very first day of the process, I was utterly surprised by how different the process was structured and what the focus was on, compared to any other process I had been through. She fuelled me with energy and inspiration and I was so freed up, to be myself and to be freely creative in the process. Also, being in the same room with her, made me feel like I was proud to be a woman, and therefore I thought this was an excellent opportunity to learn about how she manages to empower the performers like that, as a director and as a pioneer in a politically focused community. So, because there hasn’t been that much press and writing on her and her way of working, I will write a bit of information on her and her previous work and how she came up with the idea of Trilogy.
Nic, who is now finishing up her study for a master’s degree in human ecology has chosen to pursue her activism through theatre. She said to me: “I think I wanted to express myself in a way that is live, that harbors a kind of urgency, and I suppose that urgency is political in a sense, and I believe in performance, because the amazing thing in performance is the art of action, in this world we need to take action to make changes, So I guess that is why I choose the performing art over like, painting or whatever… I think.” Nic, who is originally from Yorkshire, names her mother, an opera singer, and her female tutors at Glasgow’s Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD) where she studied earlier, as the chief influences on her feminist thinking. From her teachers, she learned how to understand social differences, and to appreciate the power play within any group of people. And from her mother she learned not to give up and that she could do almost anything if she put her mind to it. Nic and her partner, theatre-maker Peter McMaster both live in a cottage where they grow their own food, and try to source what the rest locally, pick their own discarded wood from skips, that they burn for cooking and heating, they are both vegans and they try to use as little electricity and waste as little as possible. This show’s that she really means it; trying to make a difference, with theatre and probably the hardest and most disciplined way, in her way of living.
From 2005, Nic Green has written, directed and acted in solo and group theatre performance, community and public art projects, and pedagogical and holistic learning experiences. Holistic means; emphasizing the organic or functional relation between parts and the whole. Nic tries to be very self-aware of what her actions are in terms of the consequences of nature, society and in smaller examples, a room full of women. Nic likes to think that she is creating hopeful, inspiring and accessible theatre. I think that the most unique part of Nic’s work as an artist, is the participation, She works regularly with groups of all ages and abilities to create extraordinary transformative and experiential learning processes. She also works with degree-level performance students as a lecturer and mentor, and creates diverse and varied projects to enrich and involve the communities around her, with emphasis on the belief to make positive change, and to empower others to do the same. So by involving volunteers and forming communities she hopes it can, as well as being a great experience, be a springboard for them to start contributing in their own way. So far Nic has done that in London, Devon, Edinburg, Glasgow and Manchester.
The most recent piece is Trilogy. It all started brewing in 2007, when Nic was working on her play Cloud Piece, a piece that also featured volunteers, this time girls aged eight to eleven. On stage, the girls were a representation of perfect innocence as they joined Green in contemplating cloud formations. But when they were off-stage, they liked to show off to the adults around them, using behavior that was really sexual, and what disturbed Nic the most was that they were already feeling self-conscious about their bodies. They would talk about their eating habits and compare themselves with each other. And when Nic would ask them what they wanted to be when they grew up, they would say disturbing things like “footballers wives”. This made Nic realize things about the state of things for young women, and so she also started to self-reflect, and she noticed that she also frequently felt negative about, even “threatened by”, her own body. So she got together with her friend Laura and when they were on holiday in France they choreographed a skit and a dance, which became part one, in which all the volunteer women are participating. Nic and Laura realized that there was more to it, and so it evolved and the result was Trilogy,
iii. The political message.
What Nic wanted to do, she said to us on the first day, was to explore and understand more about what it is to be a woman in itself, what it is to be a woman today, and about contemporary feminism, and then communicate that to the audience. She wanted to challenge the media stereotype of what a woman should look like, and show the power of confident women celebrating their differences and sharing their joy and energy with the audience. She herself felt that she learned a lot from only making the piece with her friends, and the first process with the volunteer women at Edinburgh, made it clear to her that she wanted it to be celebratory. I liked that she said ‘explore’ feminism, because it made it clear to us that she wasn’t sure about her own feminism, her femininity itself, which was something we all could relate to. And it made me feel like I was a part of the journey to find out more, and I beginning to think that it was through ourselves firstly, and then the other women secondly that would teach us what it is to be a woman. Firstly ourselves because the perception of what being a woman is, is different to everyone. When I looked up the word WOMAN this is what it said; “Origin: Old English; wïfmon, – (wifeman) a formation peculiar to English, the ancient word being wife. And secondly others because we would then learn about each others experiences as a woman, and maybe more importantly, our differences?
Nic also wanted to show a documentary “Town Bloody Hall”, a film Nic had been obsessed with for a long time. “Town Bloody Hall” is a documentary that takes up most of part two in the piece, the documentary is from a debate about women’s liberation at New York’s Town Hall in 1971, between Norman Mailer, The American writer and journalist, and four leading feminists, including the English writer Germaine Greer. Who is considered one of the most significant feminist voices of the late twentieth century. Germaine Greer wrote the international bestseller “The female eunuch” The book’s main line of argument is that the “traditional” suburban, consumerist, nuclear family represses women sexually, and that this debilitates and devitalizes them, causing them to become “eunuchs”. Trilogy certainly supplies the audience with interesting political material, and as a young women brought up in a consumerist western society in Norway, a very well-off country, I personally had not seen “Town bloody Hall” and I was ignorant to very much of the arguments that were brought up. I remember how the audience made an indescribable sound when Germaine Greer said; “what happened to Mozart’s sister?” And how she was talking about what all feminine writers and artists had to confront and face up to was the most privileged, masculine artist.
This made my mind race, I remember having thinking along the lines before, why is it that most inventors, claimed “geniuses”, virtuoso musicians, painters, sculptors, the best bands, the best actors were male? I even admit that most of my favorite actors are male. I have always struggled with the idea of being a woman. I certainly do not feel like a “woman”, or the way I picture a woman. I do not picture a woman in any negative way, not quite the opposite, my image of a woman is of a strong, motherly, sensual figure. And I don’t feel like any of those things. Often when I create a character that I am going to act, I see the character as a man. I take the inspiration from men, from my favorite male actors.
How many young women out there in the audience felt the same as I did?
And how many of the women participating felt the way I did? Raising questions amongst ourselves as performers everyday it was comforting to see how most women, whatever age and profession had the same doubts and insecurities.
iv. Participating in Trilogy.
Not until I was in the same room as the other 40 women did I know what I had signed up for. I understood instantly that these women had made a very conscious choice to be there. A lot of these women were feminists, some were just activists, some were exhibitionists, dancers, journalists, writers, painters, producers, secretary’s, dentists, teachers and lawyers, all sorts of women from different countries, from all walks of life!
On the very first day, the first thing Nic did was telling us that we could relax, that we weren’t going to take our clothes of that day and there was a sigh of relief in the room. And it turned out that Nic had facilitated the process for us, so there would be a milder journey for us all, getting to the stage of performing naked. We were asked to sit in a circle and introduce ourselves and to say why we were doing this, what made us want to come and join. She said we would have another chat like this at the end of the day, and we would be doing this everyday, including the days of performance. This procedure she called “check in”. Already on the very first day people were talking very honestly about why they were there, and it became very easy to remember all the faces and their different stories and backgrounds. It was extraordinary how close to each other we grew as a group really early in the process. Before we were going to start learning the dance we were going to perform we had a warm up and some games, one game that she called “The dancing game”. It was a simple concept of everyone finding a partner, queuing up in the corner of the room, then dance across the floor in a diagonal, and then queue back up. The first pair in the queue would invent a “dance move” that they would repeat across the floor, for example skipping and clapping their hands at the same time, repeatedly until they reached the corner, and everyone would repeat the move, until it came back to the first couple again, where they would do their move across the floor again, but the pair behind them would start a new move, and it carried on like that until all the pairs had done it. I was really surprised how everyone really went for it; we all just became more and more free and playful. During this game Nic always played the Fleetwood Mac song; “Go your own way” quite loudly, loud enough for me to feel comfortable enough to scream of joy and make funny noises, and we all exuberantly sing along to the very encouraging lyrics;
“If I could … Baby I’d give you my world
Open up … Everything’s waiting for you
You can go your own way
You can call it another lonely day
And as soon as we started learning the dance Laura and Nic reassured us that the dance was very basic and easy to learn, and getting it right wasn’t half as important as the investment and the energy we put in to it. And just as they had told us, we all learned it all reasonably quickly, as there were older women there as well, Nic made sure that we took it nice and slow, and there were always time for questions.
As the days went by, people were admitting their fear of taking their clothes off, and just being afraid of being themselves in everyday life. Nic had created a circle of trust, an environment where everyone dared to be honest and tell everyone their stories. The process of getting naked was gentle and slow, after the second day, each day after a lot of dancing and playing Nic would turn off the light and tell us to take off as many clothing as we were comfortable with. We would lie in a circle telling jokes, an experience I hadn’t the like in my life, and then we would stand up and do the “Hokey Cokey” and at the same time as thinking how bizarre this all was to me, and how I never thought I would be dancing naked, holding hands with 40 naked women, I also started feeling more liberated, and feeling that it was almost natural. And then we would get dressed again and the lights would go up. And we would do the check in and talk about how it felt, and it was phenomenal to witness how these women were beaming after facing their fears, and at the same time, feeling that there was something in me that was changing, I felt, womanly, I felt proud to be a woman, I felt held by the other women, like I could tell them the truth, I felt like I was a part of something great, something big, something that made a difference to a lot of people, and I wished all my female friends could be a part of something similar, though I knew there is nothing like it. I also thought to myself could this be as comfortable and liberating to do in a group with both genders?
The day we got naked, we did the same thing, but she asked us to stand up and we did, as usual but then the lights went on and the familiar song that we had rehearsed the dance to came on and everyone screamed with laughter and ran to their places. It was just like an instinct, it didn’t matter, nothing mattered, just the dance, and I felt happy, and I know that everyone else felt the same, you could feel the happiness and the energy in the room, and we were all witness to it. And we danced the dance.
It was extremely freeing, it was like nothing else I have ever experienced, and I can say hand on heart, I left the process being changed and inspired. But what was the key to all of this? How did she manage to make us all feel like we were a part of a community that we in which we all were going through a transformation? I thought, one of the main differences between this process and all other processes I have been a part before a performance is the “check-in”.
v. The Check-in.
What I was pleasantly surprised by when I first participated is how well Nic had facilitated it for us all. It didn’t feel like we were just “Extras” that we’re voluntarily participating in a show, she made us feel like it was about us. It was such a different process to any other process I had been through before a show. I think the most effective and incredible thing was that everyday, twice a day we did what Nic called a “Check-in”. In were we would sit in a circle on the floor, and all 35 women would each get a turn to speak, as long as they wanted about whatever was in their mind, or “Alive for you at the moment.” No one would comment or say anything they would all just listen. I think the only time where we ever sit together in a circle in a normal rehearsal process is on the first read through and to receive notes. Which, and I can boldly state this, does not have the same effect.
I think this is a fresh ingredient to a rehearsal process, and I would say, an essential exercise to invigorate a creative atmosphere in a rehearsal room.
We did it before practicing the dance, and we would do it after the rehearsal. And as the days went by, everyone seemed to feel more ready to take their clothes off, and ready to perform. I was thinking that we should do that in college too, the process before a play can be very draining and people have their moments, people break down, people with a big part feel pressured, and the atmosphere is just always really intense. And sometimes it’s hard to create a productive atmosphere when everyone is feeling so alone and wrapped up in their concerns about their own performance. But if we all acted more like a company, where everyone felt equally important, like they had a voice, and that they were supported, maybe the rehearsals would be more enjoyable, and it might have a positive effect on the performances? And perhaps it could help the actors personally? Would it make a difference to their progress, and their ability to listen, be in tune with each other, support each other, instead of comparing themselves with each other and getting in to a competitive mode?
In first year we were introduced to a lot of theatre games, I remember how playful we all were and how it warmed up our imaginations and how on the ball I felt. Now, the warm ups, are individual. It’s very rarely that the director get’s involved and there are rarely games, and people’s attitude’s are often negative when they are mentioned, but they always seem to have a positive effect, what would the check-in do? It wouldn’t have to be “therapeutic” for it to work; just simply, everyone sits down and takes the time to listen to everyone. People could talk about how they felt the process was going for themselves, and talk about what they were struggling with. It could make a huge difference. It certainly did for me in the process of Trilogy.
I asked Nic, how she created this process, and whether it worked every time, and she said that with everything she does, she tries to facilitate a kind of communal process in the same way as with Trilogy, but the first time she did it, she hadn’t facilitated it as well as she could have; “The first time I did it, I didn’t really know what it was going to be like, I mean I didn’t facilitate it as well as I could have. But then I, once having done it the first time, I sort of realized what was important, and where the learning had been. Because the first time I did it, I have to admit that, I suppose, a lot of the focus was on the performance, will this performance moment work? Will it be like I imagine it to be, or will it do the opposite, which would be awful.” So this is a convention she has evolved, through her own process of her works, learning from the performers and the outcomes of the “ritual”. She said she didn’t expect the process to be that wonderful, and therefore she dedicated more time to think of how the process should go. “Some of the conventions are conventions that I might use at other times, like the letters, and then there is other things that I borrowed, from other facilitation practitioners. Or people who work in transformative education, or action research methodologies. And it’s become such a big part of it all, for the company.” Nic is well educated around transformative education, facilitation practices and human ecology and therefore, has a sense of the relationship between humans, human societies, and their natural, social and created environments. So because she knows the positive outcomes of taking the time to create a safe and creative environment, she puts that as one of her main focuses.
A problem that I thought would crop up in for example a college situation is limited time. To listen to everyone in a group of 30 takes a long time, and in college there is always little time to do a warm-up in the first place. For this exercise to work, and in my opinion a warm-up to work, the whole group must be dedicated to take the time to do a proper warm-up, say the rehearsal starts at 10:00, meet up half an hour earlier to do a group warm up, and if one insists, and quite understandably so, to need to have ones own individual warm-up, come an hour earlier.
When I was going to do Trilogy in the Barbican, I thought it might not be as effective and positive because it was such an enormous group of women, even when we were divided into groups the numbers were still around 50. So I thought it was a opportunity to see if it was still as effective, when there would be that many women, surely that would take up way too much time, and there would be less time to rehearse the dance and the performance? When we first started doing the check-inn on the first day, Laura who was the leader of my group, explained to the new women what the check-inn was for, and how the first day we would take the time to speak freely, but in the following days, in the morning check-inn, we would only speak for one minute each, and then in the evening after the rehearsal speak freely. Everyone understood what the principles was, that showed to me that even how special my first group of women was, it had the same effect, and I grew close to them just as quickly as the first group.
Most of the women really opened up, and some women got emotional, and other women said that they weren’t ready to say anything yet. And it didn’t seem to make a difference that we could only speak within one minute each, and Laura didn’t sit there with a stopwatch making anyone feel stressed, and never did she interrupt anyone, it just run smoothly. As the days went by, it became a ritual that everyone seemed to look forward to. Nic Said “I think one of the things the Western world lacks is ritual. Human beings have always participated in rituals to celebrate and to connect themselves to nature and to other people and to the stars, where they come from, their family, their age, and I think a lot of that’s been lost, or the value that has on our lives has been lost it feels. I think theatre is one of the few disciplines that encourages rituals to happen I think that’s really important because they’re connecting to bigger things which again is important.” Connecting ourselves to each other, I think especially in a performance group, that is meant to share and tell a story, and to create the Illusion of being a group of people that have a connection to each other, the characters have a connection to each character, so therefore it is vital to exercise this connection.
Doing the Check-in and the “dancing game” which was another of these “rituals” that we did, did really help the group being present, and to connect with each other. In check-inn’s people would say how coming in to the room was one thing but then getting back into the same energy is something else, and how the rituals really helped them. Me included, so I wanted to get a second opinion from someone who’s been through a theatre-production process professionally and in the more “classroom situation” way. So I asked my fellow student and friend Gwenllian Higginson, who participated for the first time at The Barbican if she could write a reflection on the Check-inn ritual.
” When I participated in the Trilogy under the inspiring direction and guidance of Nic Green, I was made to feel like an important individual within the cast of around however many hundreds! I was put into one of the largest groups and I admittedly worried that it would not be intimate enough for me to feel comfortable to express myself properly. I loved the fact that every single person was asked to say a little something about themselves and their reasons for being there…I also appreciated the fact that she insisted that when a person spoke they were given complete attention and she asked us all to respect each other with silence and to just listen. It was a very simple exercise but one in which I (and I’m sure all the other women) was made to feel like a very valued member.
I do believe that it is an essential exercise to invigorate a creative atmosphere within a rehearsal process. It creates a sense of unity and trust within a group, which can really help make a piece of theatre very, very special to the audience and to the cast. Even though I had missed a few rehearsals Nic and the team were very aware of making everyone feel involved in their thoughts on how they felt so I felt very looked after within the group.”
Gwenllian’s experience of being in a larger group of people, and doing the more limited version of the “check-inn” still left her feeling that it was a positive thing that would be beneficial for any performance process. She also thought it was a simple exercise which could be applied to any rehearsal process. And even having missed out on a few rehearsals, because of the supportive atmosphere and the notion of every single person is as valuable; Gwenllian would feel that when she had been gone she had been missed. She was able to express herself freely and to feel a part of the transformation the group was going through and also be able to tackle the journey towards exposing her body in front of a massive audience in The Barbican. So; taking the time and facilitating such a “ritual” everyday of a rehearsal process can result in everyone in the group feeling that it is safe and intimate enough to communicate what they are going through and acknowledging the “transformation” that is happening. It also leaves the people in the group feeling supported and as a result; less scared of judgment and freer to be creative.
vi. The performers.
There were the performers in the theatre company, Nic Green, Laura Bradshaw, Louise Brodie, Murray Wason and Jodie Wilkinson, and then there were the volunteer women. The theatre company had been a part of creating Trilogy with Nic, and had worked with her before, so they knew what they were up for.
So, would it have been more efficient to have a professional group of women to tour around with them? That had no problem getting naked and knew the dance? Wouldn’t that have the same effect on the audience and tell the same story? Nic said that having these new groups of women and forming these different communities was one of the reasons why they could keep doing the show, “Because, it’s always different to us in that way, because the process is always different, and none of us are that kind of artist who wants to be in a repertory theatre company, we’re not interesting in doing shows over and over again, for our job.” So because the process is attached to it, it keeps them interested and inspired and it makes it different each time, and then according to Nic; “Inspires us to perform the work slightly differently as well, each time.”
And also, using “professionals” would defy Nic’s wanting to learn from different women, and to give that opportunity to as many women as possible. “That’s one of the few things that are consistent in my work. I always want to spend time with other people and learn from what they know, which is absolutely what I don’t know. I’m interested in the expertise of the everyday – there isn’t always a space for that expertise to be celebrated.”
So I wanted to know about the volunteer participants, why they wanted to do this in the first place, whether it was about the personal challenge or being a part of a community, or being able to perform, or to be able to perform in a piece that was about feminism, and whether they thought it could make a “difference”. So, I handed out a questionnaire to all the women and I got some incredible answers that made me realize how much Nic’s project has helped people. Was this the “difference” that she was making with her production?
These are the questions and some of the amazing answers I got:
-Why did you want to do this play?
As a landmark for my 40th birthday/ to learn from Nic’s process and Workshop /A personal challenge to step outside my comfort zone /
to experience the spirit and the sense of togetherness in a community piece / I saw it in Edinburg and I have never felt
such a powerful sense of engagement with a piece of theatre / from the day I saw it I wanted to be a part of it / to get over
a fear of nakedness on stage / to be involved in something important / to see what feminist theatre or performance in 2010 is about /
to challenge the media stereotype of what a woman should look like and to reclaim my body.
-Did you know what the play was about before you volunteered?
Yes / kind of but I didn’t know we were going to be naked / yes I saw the show in Edinburg and I wanted to be in it.
-Was the nakedness a big part of the challenge for you?
Yes, that is why I did it / Yes, I felt I needed to test myself / I haven’t shown my legs, let alone been naked in front of anybody but myself for 8 years / not really, I was nervous about remembering the dance routine / Yes, totally to begin with but not when it came down to it / not really, my family are very naked / yes, it is always challenging to reveal yourself.
-Why do you think it was important that you were naked?
To show our huge and beautiful differences / to do the dance in a non sexual but joyous way / to celebrate differences / it’s a big power statement, I think the people that witness it will be very overwhelmed and amazed by the sight of 40 naked women dancing together in a joyous non sexual way totally immersed in the community spirit feeling secure and comfortable with themselves / I think it will inspire young women and make a lot of them realize that everyone is different so they can accept themselves.
-Do you think that this piece of theatre is something that would inform and inspire the audience? Why?
Yes, I think it is hugely powerful, who could feel nothing? / Yes, I think it makes the audience aware of the work that still needs to be done regarding women’s rights / Yes I think it will give the audience, particularly the women a feel good factor / Yes, there are many current points raised that will get people thinking, women seem to be blown away but the men all seemed to be pretty shocked… / Yes, because the point and the argument is made very clear, and the good humour of Laura and Nic, communicates it very well / Yes I think it will really inspire women of all ages / Yes hopefully, especially the young women, acceptance leads to transformation /Yes for a subsection of the audience / Yes, in terms of debate in the media about feminism and political theatre/ Yes the media coverage of it has really raised awareness .
-Has the process made a difference to you as a performer, if so how?
Yes I do, I think it physically shows the variety of female bodies and so challenges the accepted media “ideal” / Yes, for me watching it in Edinburgh it was incredible and it reminded me of the global aspect of feminism and that there are women who care / Yes, being one of the performers has made a difference to my life/ Yes, to me it has made a massive difference, I am a victim of rape and severe bullying, and I have come to a position of not being scared anymore, “my body, my choice” I feel that I have reclaimed my body and that is something years of therapy didn’t manage to do to with me. / Yes! Look at all of us! We all feel so empowered and it has given so many people hope!
These women had been given a chance to perform on two of London’s most reputable stages, the BAC and The Barbican. They were able to put that on their CV, and they were able to feel like they had been a part of something big, something that would inspire other people, a large amount of people that they would never even know. Having raised these questions to myself personally and in regards to the dissertation reading these answers made me really quite emotional, and it made it clear how motivated, empowered, inspired and transformed these women were, and at the same time, feeling those things myself. I was more ready than ever to perform. And being in that supportive environment that Nic had founded; ”It’s so rare to find an environment where everybody is wishing the best for everyone. And that’s beautiful.” Nic said. And she achieved that, friendships had formed, and everyone was just a strong supportive group, giving each other massages, listening and I felt genuinely that I wanted the best for them all. Two days before the first show Laura asked us all to say who we were dancing for. And the atmosphere in the room changed in to something you could feel, but not cut with a knife because it was so strong, it was filled with love, love for all women in the world when people said; my mother, my sister, my daughter, all the women in the world, all young girls, all women with eating disorders, my best friend, all women with breast cancer, and we danced, we danced for all those women. And I felt proud for the first time in my life to be a part of that and to be a woman.
After a show, having met up with my friends Sally McDonald and Gwenllian, They were both so excited and inspired. Sally said “You all had this energy, this love for life, this pride and joy, that you shared with us, you made me want to get up there and celebrate with you.” The energy that we all shared with each other throughout the process, and the joy of dancing and celebrating our newfound liberation had landed in the audience. There were women we didn’t know from the audience, that came up to us all in the foyer, saying how they admired us and how they felt, in a way, a part of it already.
vii. The other subsection of the audience?
Reading those answers, hearing those responses, the participants’ reaction to the show itself was, and having seen it myself I knew what the effect it had on women. At the end of the show, when Nic and Laura invited all the women to come on stage, take of their clothes and sing Jerusalem, a song that was often used by feminists during protests, parades and celebrations. And to the men to sing along from their seats if they wanted to, there were very few dressed women, in the auditorium and the whole theatre was near as to say chanting the lyrics of Jerusalem. But a question raised itself to me after reading someone’s answer “Yes, for a subsection of that audience.” And I started thinking of what section it would be less inspiring for, and my attention fell upon the men in the audience, because obviously it was about feminism and celebrating women, and it was clear to me, even from just standing onstage looking out to the audience that the difference between the women and men’s reactions were quite different.
So, in the break after the first part of one of the shows in the BAC, I went to the bar to buy a drink, and to see people’s reactions. I overheard the conversation between a couple at the bar, and the girl was talking endlessly about how fantastic she thought it was; “It was feminism, but celebratory! It was so fantastic, like the women, I didn’t expect it, I couldn’t believe my eyes when they marched out, what did you think? I mean wasn’t it beautiful? Didn’t it almost frighten you? I was so inspired, so, what did you think?” the guy looked almost gob smacked, and then he said; “I’m sorry that I’m not saying anything, I just… I don’t know what to say! I mean… Wow!” He said laughing nervously, I thought it was a perfect representation of the reaction of the woman and the man. Because when I marched out and stared out to the audience smiling at them, the women were smiling and almost jumping in their seats, even the oldest ones, were clapping their hands and supporting us with their mutual energy, whilst the men were sitting there with their mouths open, looking almost frightened, and like they couldn’t believe what they were seeing.
I managed to talk to several men after the whole show was finished. I was pleasantly surprised by how they had been affected by the show. Most of them said that the highlight of the whole piece was the point when the women came marching out. I will utilize two different age groups, to show that in spite of their age differences, they had pretty much the same responds to the piece. This was a man in his late 40’s who had unsuspectingly attended the show with his wife and his brother. And I asked him what he thought of the show and whether or not the show enlightened him and/or changed any of his attitudes.
¨What struck me the most was the first part when all the women came out naked marching towards the audience; I had no Idea what was going to happen. But after I had gotten over the shock I thought it was beautiful and almost comic. I saw a different side to feminism. You hear a lot of slander about feminism and the odd ‘You gonna burn your bra, Love?’ -Joke, and then you sort of ignorantly laugh about it, but I think this would be healthy for a lot of my mates to see, and it also opened my eyes to where feminism is today.”
At the Barbican, I tried looking for someone younger because I wanted to see what my generation thought of it, and I found an English-student in his second year in university and I asked him the same questions;
“This was like nothing I have ever seen, I have seen a lot of theatre, I go to the national a lot, and I also go to the Barbican because my sister studies music at Guildhall. My sister is also a feminist, which I have never really discussed with her, and I guess I haven’t been bothered to ask about it. There is quite a lot of prejudice about feminism now a days, and I mean, I have never been negative about it, I guess I just ignorantly thought what is the point of being a feminist in England, you’ve got your equality haven’t you? Seeing Trilogy today though, it really made me laugh, and I would almost say, I am a feminist now.”
I discussed what I had heard with Nic and Laura; they told me that it was more or less the general reaction wherever they had travelled with it. They had held a Q & A in Edinburgh after the fringe to check whether the performance had gotten down the way they wanted it to, and a lot of men had asked curious questions about their website www.Makeyourownherstory.org Which they talk about in the third part of the show. The website is about telling the lost and untold stories of our female heroes, and celebrating being a woman. And they had handed out anonymous questionnaires to the men to see how the show was received from the opposite sex’s point of view, and had been very pleased with the responses, which encouraged them to be even braver and bolder with it.
I thought it was interesting to see how the audience talked about the message and how it had affected them, it actually changed peoples attitude.
I was very lucky to be able to participate in Trilogy And therefore had access to a lot of research. Forming a friendship with the company including Nic Green herself resulted in me learning so much about the way they worked. The directorial process was well developed and very effective in creating a supportive and creative atmosphere in the rehearsal room. That resulted in that all the volunteer participants were enabled to go through a transformation and a gentle process of getting naked, to the stage of performing a embodied dance in front of an amazed audience, that in turn gave the audience a joyous picture of strong healthy women radiating of energy and sharing between themselves and the audience, the celebration. I am curious and excited to bring forth what I have learnt in this process, to future work. Because I believe that facilitating, like Nic does, which is such a simple task, results in a positive and productive outcome.
Sources for anyone who’s interested.