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…

 

A question, a case study and seven digressions

by Duška Radosavljević

I am tickled by a question a fellow dramaturg asked me the other day: is there such a thing as female dramaturgy?[1] Not so much a 21st century feminist dramaturgy but rather a pre-Aristotelian mode of theatre-making that can be characterized as female rather than male.

It’s hard to speculate around a question like this, but it did remind me of something the neuro-surgeon and author Leonard Shlain said in his 1998 book The Alphabet Versus the Goddess. According to Shlain, writing entails pretty much the same neurons in the hand-to-eye co-ordination process as those used by men specifically while hunting. Women’s habitual hand-to-eye co-ordination, meanwhile, works differently, he argues, because the neurons active in taking care of babies are different; hence, women see the world more holistically. Writing, claims Shlain, is intrinsically a male activity, and the advent of literacy, interestingly, coincided with the end of matriarchal, goddess-worshiping cultures.

I don’t have the book to hand to quote Shlain directly, but the way I have processed this reading would lead me to think that female dramaturgy would be different from the male, Aristotelian, linear, conflict-based one in a number of significant ways. We could not imagine exactly what the pre-literate female brain was like and what kind of theatre it would have led to, but we could perhaps deduce some key features of female dramaturgy from observing the work of theatre women more closely. If I may be allowed to generalize on the basis of personal experience, I would suggest that women favour fragementary, cyclical structures; they tend to dwell on a specific theme rather than pursuing action-filled plots;[2] their strorytelling is more ornate and full of digressions;[3] and they are possibly more conflict-averse.

I can give a more specific example too. I was recently invited to work as a dramaturg with Notnowcollective on their show Wonderwoman: The Naked Truth. Notnowcollective are two theatre women based in Birmingham – Kristina Gavran, a writer, and Tina Hofman, an actress, director, producer.[4] Their piece, Wonderwoman, is specifically about motherhood rather than femininity as such. Despite some reservations about my ability to rise to the challenge given that I am currently on maternity leave and living in a different city, Tina and Kristina wanted me to be part of the process precisely because of these circumstances – the ability to understand the constant balancing act, the dealing with the interruptions, the guilt, the occasional need to work below one’s own standards. (They didn’t say all this but intuitive understanding too can be deemed to be part of the package.)

At first I read the text – a document of a semi-devised creative process the two had undertaken for about a year. It was charming, funny, strong, erratic, erotic, rough at the edges and simply wonderful. Then I visited for a runthrough – because my baby is breastfeeding and I don’t drive, I came to Birmingham with my whole family in tow. Baby Katarina and I went into the rehearsal room, our boys out into the groovy gardens of Birmingham Mac for an afternoon. And this is it: unlike other (men-led) rehearsal rooms, this one was filled with an informal, chatty, gentle energy. Our conversations took place over walnuts and dates with known places of origin. We delighted in hearing each other’s personal stories.[5] There was no excessive compulsion about having to reach goals or targets. I felt completely relaxed about having to change or feed the baby while working. She felt okay about sleeping in the room.[6] The sunshine warmed the room discretely, and the main problem was: how to make the fights between the two characters convincing enough!

I was not able to attend the premiere, but I did see the final script and the video recording of the performance. At the end of it I can tell you this: Wonderwoman: The Naked Truth is a vibrant and earnest piece of theatre – the kind in which the fights are playacted, the kind in which a particular theme[7] is explored within a cycle of carefully crafted fragments, and the kind I would imagine pre-Aristotelian theatre women would approve of.

[1] Digression 1: The question, posed by my friend Beatriz Cabur, was in fact prompted by this fascinating article: http://howlround.com/why-i-m-breaking-up-with-aristotle.

[2] Digression 2: Here I am thinking of the image of Penelope weaving during the day and undoing her weaving during the night, only to start all over again the next day. I’m thinking of this image not in the context of its own narrative causality as envisaged by Homer (whoever s/he may be), but as an emblematic image of a female weaver being more interested in repeating rather than completing an action.

[3] Digression 3: Or maybe the right term would be embroidering?

[4] Digression 4: Both of these women practice professional storytelling too. This is significant.

[5] Digression 5: Tina and Kristina are both Croatian. I am Serbian. This might have been significant at one time too. We spoke in a mixture of languages, patching together experiences, past and present, with some plans and desires for the future.

[6] Digression 6: I may be forgiven for confessing this now: I was completely exhausted when I arrived into the room after weeks of not sleeping and overdelivering on other fronts, and suddenly I was feeling completely rejuvenated and revived just by being there

[7] Digression 7: If you must know, the theme of the piece would be best expressed as ‘Can you have it all?’. But then ‘Can you have it all?’ is actually the way a man would put it, within a male world. Within a female world, the question would be something more like: ‘How can I smoothly and productively integrate into my life the roles of a mother, artist, lover, ethical member of the society and a joyful human being?’.

Wonderwoman: The Naked Truth Review

guest blog post by Jordan Garvey

Jordan is a new mum from Birmingham, she is also a writer having written for blogs for the last four years, she is currently writing a book, when she isn’t cuddling her newborn or changing nappies. Originally, the article was published on her blog Bug and Bloom. Check it for more Jordan’s writings on motherhood.

‘Wonder Woman… you need to earn it!’

It’s been a while since we’ve written anything for our blog, in the midst of teething traumas, lack of sleep, holidays and day to day things, writing has been a little bit of a thing of the past, until now. This week we trundled our teething babe down to MAC to watch a play with a baby friendly matinee, written by two mums for mums called Wonderwoman: The Naked Truth, it was so liberating to be welcomed into a creative space with Ida and to see so many other parents who were also comfortable and had brought along their little one. There was no sneering if your child cried or ran up to the performers during the show because this show highlighted how to be a mum and find time to pursue our ambitions, especially as creatives. But this wasn’t just the bit for me that I found myself relating to as Ida’s teething pains kicked in half way through the performance.

The show tackled issues around feeling shamed and being shamed by other parents about our “inadequacies” as parents. Does your baby have a bedtime routine? No? Shame on you! Do you eat chocolate? Yes, you know your post pregnancy body won’t thank you! Shame on you! The expectations and pressures put on mums of today was something I had thought about when I was pregnant. Would people shirk me if I didn’t lose my post baby flab straight away? Am I a terrible mother if I look at my phone for five minutes whilst my baby is feeding because my attention has been on her for most of the day? Am I terrible for craving just five minutes of escape? Being surrounded by mother’s who had also brought their tiny babes to the shows, who also had a knowing look, a look that says “Shame on me?” helped me realise that it is okay to want time to yourself, to be you, to be more than your baby and not get it right, not have the answers and just do the absolute best you can.

Talking about the things that you love or like about your baby or being a mother was a piece of the show that really warmed my heart. Things like “I love when my baby smiles.” “I love when I feed my baby.” and even how we interact with other people’s children matters a lot to other parents. “I like how you are with my kids.” “I like the questions your kids ask me.” Finding the positives in a job that is brilliantly difficult helps when the days that you just wish you knew how to do his better arrives. When you look in the mirror and smile wearily at yourself and try and believe that you’ve got this.

“You’ve got to give it to yourself”… Throughout the show Wonder Woman wants one thing. Validation. To know that she is doing a great job, she is a wonderful mother. “Do you want a medal?” someone might ask when you talk about the hard times of parenting. Well yes, yes I do is what the answer may be and you know, that is totally fine because when you do a hard job sometimes a pat on the pat helps you get through, but as mothers we need to learn that we can be given certificates, medals, hugs and words of encouragement but there is only one person that can convince us that we are doing an amazing job and that is ourselves. No matter how many times our partners, families or friends tell us how incredible we are, you won’t believe it unless you think it. I remember shortly after having Ida being wracked with guilt because I didn’t have a clue how to deal with certain things and it didn’t matter if Paul hugged me and told me I was doing great, I didn’t believe it until we took Ida to be weighed at the baby clinic and she had put on over two pounds in two weeks, the health visitor commented on how happy and healthy Ida looked. It was this moment that I realised that I could give myself that medal, that certificate that says I am bloody brilliant.

Wonderwoman: The Naked Truth is a huge praise to its creators Not Now Collectiv and its performers, Tina and Kristina. Thank you for allowing us into your space, to feel comfortable and showing us that being a mother is difficult, is demanding and doesn’t define who you are but it does give us power and strength when we acknowledge that we aren’t perfect.

How long does it take for a child to break a pair of sunglasses?

by Georgina Lee

Turns out not actually that long, but it serves me right for giving them to the little one, eBay’s finest just could withstand his strength! With a new pair instantly purchased on my phone it was time to start rehearsals.

This week was the week when the director Hannah Silva would be working with us. It’s been really interesting to get a fresh pair of eyes on the piece and it’s developed dramatically with Hannah’s help.

Rehearsals are so much fun, not only because the show is brilliant but the way we all interact and share different stories, from breast-milk leaking everywhere to sex after children. We’re all so relaxed and open which is refreshing and I’ve learnt a lot about motherhood from Tina and Kristina.

The show is looking really good and there are beautiful moments which I love to watch and enjoy, I know the next week will be stressful in the run up to tech and dress rehearsals, but I’m ready for it.

I really recommend watching “Embarrassed” by Hollie Mcnish, which is a piece of spoken word about breastfeeding and how it is frowned upon.

 

 

 

Children, chicken pox and creativity

 by Georgina Lee

I spent the day with Tina and Kristina of notnow Collective working on their upcoming show Wonderwoman: The Naked Truth.

The dynamic duo has been rustling up an innovative piece of theatre discussing their experience of motherhood and the challenges they have faced. One of those obvious challenges today was chicken pox; Tina’s son had caught them and not wanting to give them to Kristina’s son, a trip to the park sounded like a plan.

Whilst running through the grounds of Canon Hill Park, I came to realise how much energy you need to keep up with children, and I only spent an hour with him, I began to wonder how could you balance children and your career/lifestyle?4772

The two women have always been relaxed about having their children in the rehearsal room, and encourage the audience to bring their children along too, whatever happens happens!

Mothers are constantly being judged; breast or bottled-fed, stay at home or back to work, self-soothe or not? No matter what mothers pick there will always be someone who disagrees as you can’t please everyone. Who defines what makes a good mother and why should people care what others think?

The show is ever-changing and evolving as the rehearsal period goes on, and I am extremely excited to be a part of that.

Wonderwoman: The Naked Truth will be performed at mac Birmingham on:

Sunday 22nd May 2pm & 5pm

Tuesday 24th May 12pm & 8pm

(Matinees are baby friendly)

Head over to https://macbirmingham.co.uk/event/wonderwoman for tickets or http://notnowcollective.com/projects/wonderwoman/ for more information.