Sociology meets Theatre

 

guest blog post by Professor Esther Dermott, University of Bristol

@estherdermott

When Tina and Kristina emailed me, saying that they had come across my sociological work on fatherhood, and was I interested in collaborating on a new theatre piece, I was excited. There was an element of feeling flattered (for sure) but mainly interest in the prospect of doing something new; this was a very different prospect to writing a journal article or designing a research project.

I was also nervous, mainly because I wondered what DadMan was going to say about fathers and fatherhood. My work argues that contemporary fatherhood has changed. Specifically, that the idea of intimacy captures the essence of what men are looking for in a relationship with their children and is central to parenting practices now being adopted by men. So initially I worried that the play might pander to tired clichés about male incompetence that I have tried to challenge. Once I spoke to Kristina and Tina that concern went away: they had a feminist sensibility and wanted to capture the tensions between different kinds of work and care in a nuanced way that made sense to me.

My other thought was about how my academic work could possibly inform the piece. In an early version of the show, one scene had text from my book on fatherhood read aloud from a lectern, intercut with a father crawling round the floor engaged in childcare and expressing his worries about being a dad. I could see what the scene was trying to do, for me, it highlighted the tension between the detail of the everyday and more general claims about male parenting. But it also highlighted the limits of academic writing as ‘drama’ – my words just sounded really boring. In revising that element, Tina and Kristina were able to be informed by my research without being bounded by it, and to use sociological terms in a way that is also entertaining.

‘Impact’ is the term used in academia for taking your research outside of the university. Basically, it means that someone who is not an academic is interested in your ideas. Having that happen, and being involved in helping to make a piece of theatre, has been great. It has made me think again about what sociology can and can’t communicate about families, how we as academics talk to publics and the role that the arts can play in that.

On time management and productivity from a dad’s perspective

guest blog post by Daniel Bye

I don’t know if anybody has ever mentioned it before, but becoming a parent really eats into your productive time.

My wife works full-time and I am a freelancer so in order that our one-year-old daughter is not with a childminder all the time (which in any case we couldn’t afford), I look after her on Mondays and Tuesdays. The theory was that it would be just about possible to do in four days (Wed-Sat) the work I used to get done in five (Mon-Fri). Especially when you factor in nap time on Mondays and Tuesdays.

This theory has proven hilariously inaccurate.

For a start, I already worked plenty of Saturdays, so it’s not a 20% reduction in work time, it’s a 33% reduction. Also, unless I’m away from home, the working day is now at least an hour shorter, often as many as three. And as every parent knows, nap time isn’t work time, it’s when you get the laundry done.

(The one thing no-one told me about becoming a parent was that it would lead to a fivefold increase in the amount of time I spend dealing with laundry.)

But the key loss of productive time is actually the time it didn’t look like I was being productive. When you’re a writer, the time spent running errands in town, idly reading a book on a fascinating subject, or just having a Sunday, that’s all work time. This work is invisible to the casual observer. But under the surface, characters are having conversations, a dramaturgical problem is being teased out, or a fascination is becoming an idea.

I think about 75% of my writing used to be done in this way. By the time I finally got to my desk to write something down, or into the rehearsal room to rough it out, it came relatively quickly.

The amount of time I now have to follow an idle train of thought has been decimated. A child’s needs are so immediate that it’s rarely possible to stay in your head for more than a minute or two before you have to change a nappy or read Hairy Maclary for the fourth time this morning.

It would be conventional at this point to say that it’s totally worth it in terms of the sheer pleasure brought by our child. I’m not sure this process is susceptible to that sort of cost-benefit analysis. Like, I don’t regret for one second the fact that we chose to bring this tiny person into the world. She’s wonderful. The process of watching a person becoming more fully herself every day is an enormous thrill. I feel immeasurably enriched by her existence and I miss her every hour we’re apart.

I miss her every hour we’re apart, but after two days of being together, I really look forward to some time on my own.

 

For most of her first year, I was desperately racing to keep up with everything I was supposed to be doing. I didn’t succeed. It wasn’t all down to the baby that I got a bit behind: for four months of that first year when my wife started her new job, I ended up having Dot three days a week. We also moved house to a new city. We went through the full gamut of major life changes within the space of about seven months.

Still, it is becoming more manageable. I’m now almost at a point where I’ve caught up with everything I’m supposed to have done. With one notable exception, I’m at most a week or two behind schedule with any given project. By Christmas, I’ll probably have caught up entirely. Except perhaps for that one notable exception. Well, maybe two. But it is becoming more manageable. Honest.

It’s astonishing to me now how much time I used to waste. I say this as someone who’s always thought of himself as a pretty good manager of time. I was not notably unproductive. But now, if I get a few hours at my desk, I note that almost none of that time will be spent checking twitter and facebook. I am barely aware of what’s going on in the world of professional football, and that’s not just because Middlesbrough got relegated last season. Almost none of my working time will be spent dithering – I used to agonise over certain tasks until they were unavoidable. Now I write a first draft of that email or that document and it’s surprising how often that’s the email or document I’d have ended up with after agonising until the deadline. I usually have time to redraft it and because I’ve not wasted any time dithering and agonising, I’ve still spent less time on it than I would have before.

I’ll be honest and say that, as you’ve probably noticed, I haven’t done that redraft on this blogpost. Generally, though, I’m getting to a point where I’m doing better work in less time than before I became a parent. So now, if I get a few hours at my desk, it astonishes me how much it’s possible to do.  (Anyone planning to have children on this basis should know that the first year is murder whatever you do, and it only takes one night of (more) interrupted sleep for it all to come tumbling down.)

I’m not writing a new show at the moment, so I’ve no idea how this will all translate to the sharper end of that process. But I have spent a fair amount of time writing new material that may or may not develop into anything finished. One of these pieces of new material has formed a lot of my trains of thought over the past month and I’m excited to note that I’m now able to follow those trains of thought for more than a couple of minutes. Hairy Maclary still stops them in their tracks, but somehow I’ve adjusted to the new rhythms of life and these days they wait for me in the sidings.

Someone once said to me, if you want to get someone to do something for you, ask a busy person. A not-busy person will have so much time that they won’t schedule your thing, they can do it whenever, and it will slip and slide and never get done. Meanwhile, a busy person will do it next Thursday at 10.35am.

Now I think that if you want something done, ask a parent.

Don’t, though. It’s just a figure of speech. They’ve got enough on their plate.

Baby Friendly Matinee performances: from the perspective of a Technical Stage Manager

by Tom Moseley, stage manager on “Wonderwoman: The Naked Truth”

For the past 10 years I have been involved with theatre and performances for children, so the idea of having accommodation for children or people with additional assistance requirements was not anything new to me. However, being involved with a show for adults who will have babies and toddlers with them was a totally new experience.

The addition of babies and toddlers in the audience impacted nearly every aspect of the performance, There were several things that I had to be aware of in the set up of the performance and during the operation of the show.

  • The Audience lights have to be kept on throughout the duration of the show so at no point during the show do the parents have a moment when they cannot see their child, and the child cannot see the parent to try and keep the child as calm as possible. Parents may have to leave the space to change their child’s nappy or if it is in too much distress.
  • The stage lighting has to be kept bright enough to make it possible to see any crawling children without impacting too heavily the more intimate scenes, so the actors don’t accidentally trample babies during scene changes.
  • The audio has to be loud and clear enough to be heard, but not loud enough to startle and upset the children, which ends up being one of the toughest thing to get right when operating a show in a space for the first time.
  • Toddlers will move around the performance space, there is no way of avoiding it, so the cast has to be aware of their surroundings at all times and for all moves, so do I. Being flexible with timings for the scenes, sometimes they will run longer because of baby intervention, making music run out before the end of a scene, being able to loop it as seamlessly as possible is a consideration that has to be at the back of my mind. Exactly the same issue with scene changes themselves, they may take longer with babies moving around the space. I find there are a few parallels with performing promenade shows, having audience members in your way that you have to be aware of at all times.
  • At the end of the show the audience will stay in the space for upwards of 35 minutes to speak to each other and the cast, so having enough audience music is a must, I was totally unprepared for the amount that parents do not want to return back to the house, causing the length of time that they stay in the auditorium to be quite large for a show this length.

Overall the atmosphere of our baby friendly matinee shows is very different than our purely adult evening shows, the baby friendly matinee shows have a far more relaxed atmosphere, this developed over the duration of the run, I am sure this is to actually put the parents themselves at ease and to make them feel as comfortable as possible that it is ok that their baby makes a noise (or lots of noise), one thing to note is that when one baby starts making noise it spreads to the rests of the babies like a wave across the entire auditorium, being somewhat reminiscent of being trapped inside a playgroup. To put it in noise perspective, babies have been measured crying between 115-130 decibels, which is as loud as a siren, or the legal limit for a concert. So 20 babies crying at once during a particularly emotional scene will never not be absolutely hilarious and mortifying in equal measure.

Another thing to watch out for with baby friendly matinee shows is that toddlers really add to the show in a way that only toddlers can, the freedom to roam about the stage has left some particularly hilarious moments, making it a real struggle to not laugh so loud that the audience notices my existence, my particular favourite was seeing a child decide that the floor was her mortal enemy and so headbutt it with enough force to sound like a bass drum, get back up and keep waddling around the stage like it never happened.

This show is the single most positive show that I have ever been involved in, the audience are always itching to leave their positive comments and go out of their way to speak to the cast. It resonates with parents in a way that is unlike anything I have ever worked on, and the baby friendly matinee is the one that makes it obvious that the show has a purpose, seeing new mothers having the ability to relate to a show and to other mothers, to know that their struggles are completely normal is absolutely magical, and any inconvenience from children making noise is shared by the entire audience who all relate and understand the embarrassment and that it is not anything to worry about because everyone’s baby will be doing it.

In conclusion the baby friendly matinees as a technical stage manager can be hilarious, complicated, noisy and go on much longer than you expect them to, but no matter how they go they are always different and unique.

 

 

Directing, purple rabbit and baby-friendly theatre

guest blog post by Oliver O’Shea, theatre director

We are sat at a table, reading a new section of the script. Written in the very early hours of the morning, this text is based on the previous day’s work, in which we were devising a new scene for the updated version of Wonderwoman. We are trying to concentrate, and both Kristina and Tina are closely considering the words as they read their parts aloud.

Today, we are not in a windowless basement, but instead in a rather spacious room which overlooks a calm lake of Cannon Hill Park in Birmingham. In fact, it is sunny today and the light pouring in through the windows is bright and pleasant. But we are squinting at the papers and tablet screens in front of us. Not gazing out of the window.

And yet…out of the corner of my eye, I spot something concerning which is happening in the corner of the room: one of the aforementioned large windows is slightly ajar, and poised between the frame and the ledge is one of our props. Not just any prop, but a purple toy rabbit, which we have recently decided will now play a rather prominent role in the performance. Gripping the leg of the rabbit, and determining its fate is a grinning two-year-old; Kristina’s son to be precise.

I hasten to reassure you that we had already established at the start of the day that the windows of this first storey room were (as expected) childproof, and could only be opened about an inch or so. The only danger was to the rabbit. And perhaps any unlucky jogger or pram-pusher who might be strolling below…

Before it could be dropped to its demise, the rabbit was reclaimed from his grip, and our renegade Assistant Director set new ‘tasks’ with other toys instead. Perhaps we should have foreseen that using children’s toys within our performance about motherhood would only make rehearsing with young children in the same room more challenging. But then again, we probably would not have decided to use these toys in performance, if we had not been inspired by their presence in the rehearsal room in the first place.

 

 

 

 

Kristina, Tom (stage manager), Oliver (director) and Tina

As a young, single, male theatre director without any caring responsibilities, joining the Notnow Collective for this project was a revelatory, inspiring, at times challenging – and, yes, occasionally frustrating – experience. Typically when early-career directors receive training, a more experienced director passes on their ‘process’ and ‘practice’ from a predominantly aesthetic perspective. Now, having had time to reflect on my two weeks with Notnow Collective as their rehearsal director and dramaturg, I wanted to consider in what ways the conditions in which they find themselves working, are influencing their artistic practice. And more broadly, whether we should be as bold and imaginative in our working practices, as we attempt to be in our productions.

Even in the most formal and conservative of rehearsal processes, invisible and unspoken influences affect the atmosphere, and thus shape the work which is being created in ineffable ways. Working with a toddler in the rehearsal room, changes the rhythm and the manner in which a scene is rehearsed, for instance; it changes how we approach the scene and shifts the priorities of attention. So, the performance itself diverges from its existing form – when working in a rehearsal room, everyone in the room contributes indirectly to what is created, whether actively or not.

In addition to evening performances, Wonderwoman will be presented with baby-friendly matinees on-tour. I was delighted and enthralled watching the first performance of Wonderwoman at mac, Birmingham, observing how the dynamics of the performance are transformed by having over twenty babies and infants in the auditorium. And on reflection, I wonder whether would Kristina and Tina be so resolutely focused and unflappable during these performances, had they not rehearsed with distractions and interruptions from their own children?

And as for my own work as a freelance director, I contemplate how my own rehearsal style might shift and adapt as I work on other upcoming projects. Perhaps I will welcome the interruption, the disruption, the tangent more readily than before; and perhaps the greatest discovery is that the real moment of drama is to be found in the dangling of a prop from a window on a sunny day, rather than from the words on a page.

If you want to know more about Oliver’s work check his website https://olioshea.wordpress.com/

On Tour with Young Children

guest blog post by Amber Onat Gregory

I’m the Co-Artistic Director of Frozen Light theatre company (alongside Lucy Garland) and we create multi-sensory theatre that tours nationally for audiences with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities (PMLD). But I’m not here to talk about that, the notnow Collective have asked me to write about my experiences of touring with children.

I had been working as a freelance artist running various projects for numerous community groups for 6 years when I really started to feel the struggle of being a sole practitioner.  In 2012 funding in the UK felt particularly bleak and having moved from Australia in 2011 (which was booming) I’d really struggled to get my teeth stuck into a long term project, and was finding it hard to earn a living from being an artist.  I thought it could be an ideal time to start a family, and slowly grow my work as the children got older.  It was around this time that Lucy and I explored the idea of doing a collaboration.  We’d met at uni and since graduation had both been doing small scale multi-sensory storytelling shows in special schools.  We were both eager to raise the artistic quality of our work and explore the possibility of creating productions for theatre venues.

It was really a case of two heads are better than one and our work took off in a way that we initially couldn’t have predicted.  It was at a time when access for people with disabilities was becoming a hot topic in the arts sector, relaxed performances were a growing model, and it seemed ideal to push these boundaries further.

By the time we did a development tour of our first theatre show TUNNELS in special schools around the country I was already 5 months pregnant.  I couldn’t even perform in our first ever show at a theatre venue (at The Garage in Norwich) as I was so pregnant that I could only waddle.  The reception we received at that first showing we did at The Garage was amazing, feedback from audience and carers showed that the demand for our work to tour theatre venues was huge- and we had received the arts council funding to do it, it felt like such a success. We were then brought on by house theatre to tour 12 venues in the East of England, and on top of the 6 venues we’d secured ourselves nationally it became quite a large theatre tour for a very new theatre company. This tour started when my first child was 8 months old.

My mum came on tour with us and we shared a hotel room.  I never thought I’d be a fan of budget hotel chains but it’s amazing that they only charge per room and not for the amount of people in it – a standard room is the same price as a family room so the cost of extra people on tour wasn’t a problem. By the end of TUNNELS tour both Lucy and I were pregnant. With the success of the tour, future plans and funding already in place for the development of our second show we pressed ahead.  We rehearsed right up until we were both very pregnant and then premiered our new show ‘The Forest’ when our teeny babies were only 5 months old. It seems mad to look back at that time now with babies coming in and out of the rehearsal room to feed in the lead up to the premiere.  I had the world’s noisiest breast pump that made a loud mooing noise (ironic right?) whilst rehearsing.

Once the babies were 9 months old we began our tour of The Forest to 26 venues across the UK.  During this tour on top of the 3 performers (including ourselves) and technician, we also had 3 children under 3 and 3 grandparents on the road with us – my mum and both of Lucy’s parents.  Sometimes it was 4 grandparents when my dad and step mum came over from Dubai if my mum was away.

Travelodge breakfast

I was now sharing a room with my mum and both children – the once spacious Travelodge seemed to shrink when my angelic first born became a two year old who loved his tantrums.  When myself and Lucy both became pregnant at the same time we had joked about getting a ‘tour nanny’ but realistically it didn’t seem like a viable option for what can be long and sometimes unpredictable hours. Also the cost of hiring someone and paying for their travel, food and accommodation would be prohibitive. It turns out you can ask your mum for a whole lot more.  We couldn’t have continued our work without the support of our parents, partners and in laws.

Another hotel room bed

Sometimes it was total madness- driving from Dundee to Stonehenge in one day to arrive at the Travelodge at 10pm only to realise that I’d booked everyone’s hotel rooms for the night before. That wasn’t so fun.  The children would never fall asleep with me in the room so we had what we called ‘corridor parties’ which were ultimately sitting in the corridors of hotels with our laptops. We’d write funding applications for the next project, respond to the constant influx of emails all whilst the children slept in the hotel room (or didn’t).  At home my kids sleep pretty well, and they’re not that bad on the road either, but sharing a room does mean that most nights it’s like playing musical beds and all the sleeping strategies I put in place at home go totally out the window.  But what happens on tour stays on tour so that’s ok.

Children’s daily routines disappear as you have to get from venue to venue  (we drove over 5000 miles on the tour of The Forest and travelled through every county in England except for Cornwall) and meal times move about and are often on the road. It can be refreshing though to not feel dragged down by everyday housework – no meals to cook, no dishes to clean, no daily laundry cycles (just a big fat pile when you get home).  Most of the time we’re away for about 4-5 days (I think the longest was 10 days), so even though it was hard to be away from my partner and home, we were there enough to not feel like it had been too long.

My mum’s pretty much the most active grandmother ever so it means the boys have been to every library, museum, soft play area and playground in the places we have toured to (which as I’m sure you’ve gathered is a lot of places). So life is never dull on tour. Crazy yes, but not dull.

Grannies on tour

After 3 months on the road with The Forest, we were done – and life returned to ‘normal’. And that feels weird too.  Being on tour doing something you love is such an intense and all encompassing feeling that when you go back to your everyday life it’s such an anti-climax, and like something is missing. It’s odd.

Now that neither Lucy nor I are breastfeeding a baby we have a lot more choice. But choice can sometimes makes things a little more complex.  Do we bring the children with us or leave them at home? Bringing the kids on the road when they were so little was such a no brainer, a hugely challenging task, but something I didn’t question. Now that I can choose whether they come or not I feel pretty stuck. We took The Forest to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer for 4 days without the children and it was such a freeing experience for me.  I would perform in the mornings and then spend the day seeing shows and the evenings networking and I didn’t worry about dinner being too late, or where I would be meeting my mum (who doesn’t own a mobile phone, which is a tale for another day).

Riley at the theatre

In the Autumn just gone we did a 6 venue tour of our latest show HOME which was much shorter than our previous tours. I booked family rooms for everywhere we toured but then let my mum decide if she wanted to look after the children at home or come on the road.  In the end they joined us for 3 of the 6 venues.   As lovely as it is to see them after work everyday, it can be a nightmare to work out where to go for dinner, and then, you know…. bedtime….. and you also end up doing less networking which can often lead to further work opportunities. But when you leave them at home, even a few days can feel like a long time, particularly when you keep going away for a few days, week after week.  And that’s rubbish too.  And that’s just it – there’s no right or wrong – I’m supposed to choose what’s ‘best’ for everyone. And it’s rarely the same thing, particularly when you’ve got more than one child – what’s right for one often isn’t for the other.  People talk a lot about ‘mother’s instinct’, and I’m just not sure I ever got it.

My instinct changes its mind a lot, making it not very instinctual. I question whether I would feel the need to even bring the children on tour at all if I was a man. But I guess I’ll never know the answer to that.

Our next tour of HOME starts later this month.  We’re going to over 40 venues in the UK- that’s 40 different towns and cities between January- May 2017. I have no idea what to do. I’ve asked nursery (they both go to nursery 2 days a week) to see if they can have a few months off.  So far that request has been met with a rather awkward silence… And is it better for them to be on the road with me and my mum? Or at home with my partner and my mum? Or a bit of both? Still trying to figure that out. And what about when my eldest starts school next year in September?  What then? I’m not sure, but I know that we’ll work it out. What’s been great with Frozen Light is that when all of the artists on tour are parents, we all know what each other are going through- whether the children are with you or not, and that creates an incredible support network.

Harlow Playhouse

So why do it? Why endure this madness? Why not get a proper job (other than the fact that I’ve worked for myself for so long that I’m not sure anyone else would have me!)  Well when you’ve spent 6 years working as a freelance artist and barely managed to scrape a living together, it feels pretty amazing to finally feel like you’re working on something that is really working. It’s working for us, it’s working for our audiences, it’s working for the arts industry, it’s working for our funders and it’s working for other artists that we’ve been able to employ.  It also feels pretty good to not be light years away from perhaps earning the average UK salary one day (maybe).  It’s also absolutely incredible being to earn a living and support my family whilst doing work that I love and believe in so whole-heartedly.  Being able to work in a field where I believe in the ethos of everything we do is pretty magical.  Knowing that this is possible in a workplace is something that I’d love to pass onto my children.

There we have it – my muddled thoughts.  I realise I haven’t yet figured it all out. What I do know is that I truly believe that for my family and I, it really does take a village to raise a child. And sometimes that village just needs to come on tour (thanks Mum).

To follow us on our Spring 2017 tour antics head to:

f:/frozenlighttheatre

t: @frozentheatre

i: @frozenlighttheatre

 

Skype meeting with the producer

by Kristina Gavran

Friday morning I wake up knowing that at 1.30pm I have skype conference meeting with the producer Ruby Glaskin from In Good Company (did I tell you we are one of their new associate artists? Like, hundred times?). notnow Collective is finishing Arts Council application for the national tour of Wonderwoman (our first tour, we are super excited!) and we need advice from Ruby, who is an experienced producer. I am in Birmingham, Ruby works from Derby, and my colleague Tina is at the moment directing a show in London (Derby-Birmingham-London, what a perfect triangle!). So we will have Skype conference during the lunch break.

And what is the first thing I do to prepare for the meeting? I take my kid to the park, of course!

After cleaning, breakfast, dressing and convincing him to put on his shoes on, we are out around 9.30am. He is playing with his friends in the playground, chasing ducks, throwing leaves, climbing stairs, testing consistency of mud. And he is having plenty of fresh air.

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Basically, my intention is to make him tired.

I take him home, give him lunch and at 1 o’clock put him to bed. He is resisting a bit, but eventually he falls asleep.

I sneak out of the bedroom, it is 1.20pm, just enough time for me to turn on the computer, find all the documents, prepare paper and pen for all the notes, and make myself a nice cup of coffee (with almond chocolate on the side).

1.30pm. I am on time, I am efficient and the meeting is super productive. Ruby gives us plenty of valuable advice, Tina is asking questions and I am making notes. I know Tina is taking her two boys to rehearsals, but I can’t see them on the video. I guess she has also planned the meeting from the early morning 🙂

We finish the meeting and I have enough time to write all the comments into our AC application, update activity plan, contact our sound designer, check how is our crowdfunding campaign going, and update our website.

I even start writing my monodrama (for another project), contact the director with a problem, we solve the problem and I continue writing.

Then I go to the kitchen, wash dishes and start making lasagne. And just when I was putting lasagne in the oven, I hear the cry and “Mama, mama!” from the bedroom.

I rush to my son to hug him and thank him for being such a good collaborator.

Some days go really smoothly.

Did I mention we are crowdfunding at the moment? Like, hundred times! It is important for us because we want to take Wonderwoman on tour! if you want to support us, here is the link where you can do it.

http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/wonderwoman-the-naked-truth-national-tour

One foot in front of the other 7 – On Friendship

by Tina Hofman

This blog is not dedicated to theatre, or arts, or working parents. It is dedicated to old friendships: those that date from the time of crooked teeth and falling of our bicycles, over the first experiments with vodka and tears spilled over the first love.

There is a friend I have known since we were seven. She is one of the closest friends I have. I don’t get to see her very often; we live in different countries and lead very different lives. When time permits we talk on the phone, and we are very efficient in that: considering the amount of topics we touch on, an hour of conversation equates to good three hours of seeing each other (we have 4 kids between us ages ranging from 2 to 6 years old).

These phone conversations date from early Nineties, or precisely from the time we were permitted to use our home phones. Although we lived very near each other, our phone conversations could be so long that our mothers used to shout at us to “ for goodness sake hang up, you could have met each other in the park during this time!!”.

My friend makes no attempt in searching for peace and quiet from her kids (2 and 4) during our phone calls. In all honesty, if she did, we would only ever be able talk on very, very rare occasions. Like this, she would call me when she thinks her kids have settled into some sort of an activity. With me on the phone, she is still quite actively involved in their activity, whether by guiding, supporting or chiding them. Often I can barely distinguish whether the remark is directed at me or at her children. She simultaneously talks to all of us.

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For instance, I took part in her elder son’s potty training. During one of our conversations I witnessed his failed attempt at getting it right. The upshot was that we managed to keep the conversation going. The downshot was that her younger boy felt desperately excluded and made even greater mess of his elder brother’s accident. All this did not stop our phone conversation, but the accident got sorted and cleaned.

My friend never expresses frustration at not being able to lead a calm conversation and does multi-tasking, multi-talking thing up with natural ease. She makes no issue of her circumstances. Yet, during another particular conversation she has:

  • Changed a very soiled nappy
  • Breastfed the younger child
  • Took her older child to the toilet and supervised
  • Made sure they finished their breakfasts
  • Prepared hot cocoa for them
  • Started waking up her partner gently (he works nights)
  • Put me on hold, sorted her childminding
  • Nursed again
  • Went again to wake up her partner. This time she was not as gentle. At all.
  • Helped the older child to dress
  • Dressed the younger child
  • Helped the younger build a Duplo gun
  • Put their shoes on ready for their weekend walk in the park.

We finally stopped out conversation when it was time for them to go out.

My friend and I have a 31-year-long friendship. It sounds amazing. I look today at her face, as to me she is still that same face I met at English language classes at the age of 7. We have lived through a lot together: an earthquake, numerous air-raids, homework, getting drunk together for the first time, we both shared anxieties around our parents’ divorces, she carried me when she though I broke my hip, we climbed mountains and picked mushrooms, we talked sex, love, pain, and worry in depth.  I was by her bed in a hospital when she woke up from a general anaesthetic, she helped me handle my Dad during his worst depressions, and when I decided to leave my previous partner and came home to Zagreb she held me for long time and stayed overnight to give support and comfort. We buried our fathers in space of 3 months from each other, both at late stages of our pregnancies.

Children have come only in the last 6 years. This has added a new dynamic between us, no doubt, but change is the only constant thing. This dynamic is so eclectic and rich and real. It the best reminder of the stuff we are all made of.

Part of the inspiration for our show ‘Wonderwoman: the Naked truth” was friendship and it’s endurance and strength. The show is going on a UK tour in Spring 2017, and we need a little help in making the staging that will tour in the back of our car. This is the link for our Crowdfunding campaign, if you feel like chipping in.

 

 

 

 

 

I am a dinosaur

guest blog post by Marcus Fernando

Character enters, taking giant steps.

Today, I’m a dinosaur. I wasn’t always a dinosaur…but today I am. Being a parent does that to you. I think I’m a stegosaurus. Yes, I’m pretty sure I am.

Character hops from leg to leg.

I’m glad…I can be at home with them.

I’m sad…I don’t always have time for their games.

I’m glad…I work from home.

I’m sad…I have to be on a computer so often.

I’m glad…they want me to play with them.

I’m sad…I’m no longer a child.

When you become a parent you suddenly realise how fragile we all are. You become more aware of your own limited mortality. It’s ironic, isn’t it, that at that exact moment of realisation, you find yourself in the company of little people who think you’re indestructible? Yes, to my boys I am Captain Scarlet….or more usually Captain Black…or maybe a Mysteron. I’m always the Baddie. To them, I can never die. Will never die. But to me…I just want to last for as much of their lives as possible.

Character hops again.

I’m glad…they sometimes call me by my first name.

I’m sad…that as an adult I’m a different species.

I’m glad…I can teach them things.

I’m sad…that I don’t know enough to fill their minds.

I’m glad…that I’m their friend.

I’m sad…that I’m the person they must one day defeat.

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I play a variety of Baddies: Darth Vader from Star Wars, The Hood from Thunderbirds (apparently I have the right hair style), or maybe Bloefeld from James Bond. Come to think of it, none of them have hair, do they? Probably just a coincidence.

The other day they decided I was Superman. A superhero. Not a Baddie. This was a surprise. At last, my chance to shine. (character adopts Superman pose and hums theme tune) Then I found out why: they had endless supplies of Kryptonite…apparently. Sofa cushions. So…Batman and Spiderman demolished Superman using Kryptonite sofa cushions. I fought well…like any good superhero. But I lost. I always have to lose.

Today I wanted to be a raptor. You know, something with teeth and claws. But they wouldn’t let me. That would give me too much of an edge. So I’m a stegosaurus. Of course, they’ll be raptors. Maybe even a Tyrannosaurus. But me?…How am I going to win when I’m a vegetarian?!!…With a brain the size of a walnut?

Character hops

I’m glad….I can be with them.

I’m sad…I won’t be there for them for ever.

I’m sad…they won’t want me to be there for them for ever.

I’m sad…I haven’t got the energy to keep up with their games.

Yes, today I’m a dinosaur.

But yesterday…I was a Superhero.

 

  • Notnow Collective are taking “Wonderwoman The Naked Truth” on a national tour, we just have to re-shape the show a bit to fit it in our car. If you want to help us travel more easily, you can support our crowdfunding campaign here.

 

Traveling with children

By Kristina Gavran

Traveling with children can be great fun, it can be a necessity, it can be easy and enjoyable, and it can be the worst experience you ever had. It all depends. On what? Well….. so many things: their mood, their sleep pattern, food….. I still don’t have an answer how to solve this problem.

My son is not even two years old and he already has more stamps in his passport than I had before I turned twenty. When he was 3 days old he took his first car journey, when he was 2 months he went for the first time from Birmingham to London by train, at the age of 3 months he was on a plane to Croatia, when he was 4 months he went under the sea – via Eurotunnel to Paris. And at the age of 6 months he had his first cross continental flight traveling to India.

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Sometimes it all goes smooth and well, but sometimes traveling with him is a disaster.

Here are some of my experiences…

Bad, worse, terrible

  1. The scream when we are trying to put him into car seat. It seems like we are the worst parents in the world, and the car seat is a torture machine.
  2. That itchy feeling on your back when you know everybody on the bus is looking at you and your screaming baby. You are singing, rocking, cuddling, but nothing is helping. He is screaming from top of his voice and the other passengers feel disturbed at reading newspapers/typing on their mobiles/listening to music….all you want is to be in their place.
  3. Same situation, but this time on a plane – much worse. Specially because everyone wants to sleep. They put you with other families who have babies, and the moment you manage to put your baby to sleep, the baby sitting next to you will start crying, waking your baby up, and the circle continues.
  4. That moment when a lovely stewardess in her lovely uniform comes to check if you have put the baby seat belt. Of course I haven’t! And she is kindly asking you to do it with her lovely voice as if she can not see the wild cat (baby) that you have in your lap who is refusing to stay still and be locked.
  5. When you realise that all those amazing movies on Emirates flight will be unwatched as you have to run after your toddler.
  6. Breastfeeding while on bus/train/airplane, squashed by other passengers, trying to cover yourself with a scarf and just hoping he will fall asleep.
  7. He is licking everything he sees on the train, even the bag handle of the lady sitting next to you.
  8. Changing nappies in airplane/train toilet. You need special skills for that – ninja mother!

The good moments 

  1. Driving in the car is pure pleasure because he is fast asleep in his car seat, gently rocked by all the humps and holes on the road (thank you numerous Councils for not fixing them!)
  2. His smile is so charming that all the stewardesses are coming to him bringing extra snacks, sweets, even the captain’s cap!
  3. The moment you enter overcrowded bus and there is somebody giving you their seat so that your baby can sit on your lap. Heaven! Thank you stranger, this is so appreciated.
  4. He is sharing his snacks with all the passengers on the train and you just feel the world could be a better place.
  5. Observing his expression when he sees things for the first time.
  6. Enjoying all the facilities on modern airports. You should see the luxury they have in those baby changing unites, play areas, feeding points!
  7. Feeling great because you packed so well – snacks, books, wipes…. you are organized and completely in control. Nothing can surprise you and you just admire yourself and your organisation skills (one day I will put that on my CV)

There are so many moments that I will cherish from our travels. Every stage brought different joys and different difficulties. But we are dealing with them and not allowing them to prevent us from traveling. At the moment I can’t wait until he starts talking and asking questions! (although everyone says I will regret after his hundredth question – “Mummy, how does airplane work?”,  “I don’t know! Ask daddy!”)

Have I mentioned we are planning more traveling for next year? Get ready, we are going on a tour!

Yes, we are taking “Wonderwoman” around England. Notnow Collective are super excited that the show will reach new audiences, we just have to re-shape the show a bit to fit it in our car.

If you want to help us travel more easily, you can support our crowdfunding campaign here.

Working with baby – working with toddler

by Kristina Gavran

When Tina and I started notnow Collective, my son was four months old. I was a mother for the first time, scared that I will never work again and desperately feeling that I don’t have time for myself or creativity in general. Tina, my colleague and a mother of two sons, had a mysterious smile on her face, and only now I know what that smile meant (or should I say, I only half-know as I still don’t have that second child). And I know this: working while having older kids around is so much more difficult then when they are babies.

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You are wondering why is there a photo of tomatoes in this post? Keep on reading 🙂

When we started working, my son used to sleep 2+1+2 hours during the day. That means I had 5 hours to work on my theatre projects (and back then I was complaining about that! How I wish I had those 5 hours now)! Even when he was not sleeping, it was easy to push him in the pram or cuddle him gently so that I could continue with my meeting or writing. But now, he is a toddler, or should I say – a runner. He is running like crazy, throwing balls, climbing slides, pushing and jumping. He needs active  attention every single second. Have I mentioned he sleeps 1 and a half hours per day? Yes, what perfect working hours!

So, I start working in the evening, when he finally goes to sleep, but I am too tired from all the running, climbing, throwing balls, sliding after him. Once again, I ask myself – how will I manage it? Are there some tricks to occupy him whilst Tina and I are rehearsing/writing grant applications/responding to emails, or when I am writing a play? How can I be creative while playing with him at the same time? Can he be a part of the creative process? What can his presence in the rehearsal room bring at this stage? As we are planning the tour of Wonderwoman, I guess the answers will soon become apparent.

Motherhood brought a lot: I am more focused, I appreciate my time more, I am better at multitasking and patience, but let’s just talk about creativity. How did my creativity change? I see my son as a world-explorer. He is so amazed by little things. Everything is new to him. Maybe that is the best thing about having a baby – being reminded how wonderful the world is, and how inspiring it can be. That kind of fresh viewpoint is so important for theatre, and for working in the arts. Just seeing things in a different way. Did you know that tomatoes are slower than balls (when you roll them), that water makes a sound if you blow in it, that mud and ice make wonderful cakes, and that it is really hard to catch ants? Do you see ideas for a theatre play here? I do!

During the day, while running after him, my brain works like crazy – I am just getting ideas for creative projects, for theatre plays, stories, workshops… my son is a muse for my creativity.

I only wish I had time to write it all down.

But at least some of it is here…