This is the performance project I am working on for The Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It began when I was looking for advice about funding and direction for Spirited Bodies, as a possible social enterprise. A new contact in the life drawing world put me in touch with one Alex Dunedin, the director of The Ragged University (http://www.ragged-online.com/), an organisation promoting free education which is available for all. Based in Edinburgh and preferring face to face encounters, I paid him a visit in early May.
Alex is a natural academic and overwhelmed me with knowledge and avenues I could explore to enhance Spirited Bodies, but what stood out the most was when he mentioned he had a slot in The Festival, and would I like to contribute a presentation about my work with Spirited Bodies, and as a life model. I immediately translated ‘presentation’ into ‘Performance’, and then there was no going back. Theatre was my first love and where I have always intended to return; this life modelling lark was never meant to take up so much time! But I am a fussy figure and had to wait for the right opportunity.
In 2009 I created a performance with a friend, Szilvia Keffert, which began with a surreal scene of a life model having an eerie nightmare. We had wanted to resurrect this piece for some time and here was a chance. As it happened Szilvi is more dedicated to theatre than me, and was already committed to a number of other shows.
I searched for another partner and travelled again to Edinburgh, this time to visit Liz Windsor, a very close friend of my boyfriend. He thought she might fill the role, and certainly she was keen to try life modelling. We modelled for each other, and then for an artist friend of hers, Philippa Carter (http://laspecola.blogspot.com/), who recently trained at the Florence Academy of Art. Beautiful sketches ensued, though we were not able to hold still for more than a little time – she being used to poses lasting months!
Seeing these images now I am moved; and reminded of this unusual encounter, whereby I initiated a new model into this art of stillness. Physically we are quite similar, though I am just a fraction smaller in all dimensions, proportionally we match well. There was the being close and for some time, and touching, a woman I had really just met! Her feeling me as I lightly started to wobble in part of my leg, though it would not have been apparent to an onlooker. This our first (and best?) pose, daringly interlinked, most emotive of the session.
Though wrapping myself between Liz’s legs more serpent-like would have been stunning, my own contortion would not allow it. As it is her weighted pose contrasts my curves very pleasingly.
Sweet partnership! Finally I struggled in rehearsal to direct the most forthcoming Miss Windsor adequately, she having no prior experience in performance. I had to admit to not having much of a plan, rather being keen of her acquaintance. I had come across her briefly years ago in shadier pastures, and had been startled then by her presence, so curiosity did lead me to her. My stay with her corroborates my theory that being naked if not sexual in the company of another may lead to enhanced bonding in the shortest of time. We caught up the years betwixt us through a late night and some poses. Unforgettable Liz, I look forward to knowing her more.
She held me as if an older sister (who is actually younger), and she certainly treated me during my stay to a great deal of help on this journey. She has a natural interest in the surrounding culture of her home (http://www.happeningedinburgh.co.uk/). An industrial gothic scene in common, we have loved some of the same men, trampled the same dance floors and partaken in all sorts of parallel sleep-deprived behaviour.
For now I have returned to London with an evolved script, and to an older actress to complement my nudity. One thing I learned with Liz; 2 similarly bodied women would likely extort much comparison in an audience and we would have to address this performatively. For now that is not my theme after all, instead a cross-generational relationship.
Many loving thanks as always to my incredibly patient boyfriend Aaron. And dear Lucia for finding us.
‘Girl In suitcase’ will show at ‘The Mascara Bar’, Stoke Newington, London on Saturday 6th August, 8:30pm, £4.
And in Edinburgh from 12th – 14th August, 7:30pm at ‘Out Of The Blue’ – (http://www.leithonthefringe.com/the-shows/girl-suitcase/) Though the listing has not yet been updated, the cast now includes Jaki Loudon.
There will be an additional mini performance in record shop ‘Elvis Shakespeare’ on Saturday 13th August at 2pm.
Drawing materials provided for all shows by Cass Art (http://cassart.co.uk/)