‘Girl in Suitcase’ ~ a one woman life modelling story with musicians

Before I get back to Spirited Bodies I am rebirthing my theatre. On Friday will be the first time my new performance will be watched.

It is a one woman life modelling spectacular. I will be with 4 musicians; a string ensemble as well as a percussionist, and the audience may draw the show if they wish. It is not entirely nude, there are a few flimsy costumes; a skip-raided set, and a soundtrack for the first scene which I created before I had met the musicians. Actually that scene is recycled from previous shows I have put on because I like it so much. The opening suitcase sequence sets the tone for a fucked up inversion of life drawing set-up. The model is immediately on edge, likened to a trafficked slave, and itching to escape. She makes her come-back, reverses roles with the ‘other character’ – a sinister older woman, and starts to take back her power.

When I started writing this show I thought it would be a snapshot of myself, amplified for the timebank. That’s what it says in the blurb which I wrote before I got to the script. While I was sketching out new scenes, stuff was happening with Mum. Each time I visited seemed more pertinent. Dad was struggling, and my last version of ‘Girl in Suitcase’ from Edinburgh ’11 kept creeping back into my awareness, the importance of telling that story. In a new way. With one actor. Mum was holding on to life as powerfully as ever, but sustaining her life was costing Dad on every plane.

The play is not exactly what it says it is, but it is where I am now, and I have no doubt it will evolve over time.

Working with ‘The Next Room’ has been a revelation. Suddenly there are others involved and they are not exactly in my space, though they share it. They bring new enthusiasm, and are the first people to respond to my script. I realise I need to focus on what their role is and be clearer in my direction, but luckily they instinctively understand and I feel most privileged to have them on board.

Here are some rehearsal shots by Chris Hermon.

During rehearsal I am not nude
During rehearsal I am not nude

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Roddy Skeaping leads 'The Next Room' collective of musicians
Roddy Skeaping leads ‘The Next Room’ collective of musicians

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Ines
Ines

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Tobias
Tobias

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Damaged a calf in this rehearsal, hope it's healed in time!
Damaged a calf in this rehearsal, hope it’s healed in time!

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My violin is making a come-back!
My violin is making a come-back!

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The show is on at The Telegraph at The Earl of Derby pub at 87 Dennett’s Road, SE14 5LW 

on this Friday 28th March at 8pm. Tickets are £3 (£1 concession) and can be bought here or on the door most likely.

If you are keen on drawing you are welcome to bring an easel. There are tables and we have some boards at the venue, and drawing materials. I will encourage everyone to draw, but you may simply watch if that’s more your bag. The poses are not very long if you are familiar with life drawing, and some are movement scenes, but if life art is new to you, then 5 minutes of stillness may feel like a long time. On the other hand, when there is no dialogue, there is music.

 

It Seemed Incredibly Normal to Stand Around Unburdened by Clothes

“It’ll be ok, I told myself that morning, I’m sure Esther will reassure us, tell us what to do, she’ll make it all work.

by Brian McKenzie; http://www.bdmckenzie.blogspot.com

Then there was train trouble at King’s Cross and I ended up rushing in after they’d all started. So in the end my preparation was getting undressed and walking into a roomful of people! Bizarrely it felt perfectly normal. Not embarrassing. Not awkward. Not even chilly. It seemed incredibly normal to stand around unburdened by clothes. In dreams when I am naked, I have always been mildly apologetic rather than humiliated – it reminded me of that. Only no need to apologise because nakedness was exactly what was expected. I highly recommend the experience to anybody prepared to try a little thought experiment, know you are alive by doing something a little unnerving or just yearning for two hours without chores, text messages, responsibilities or objectives. Therapeutic, communal yet individual.”

Thank you Catherine!

by Francis Wardale, "I like quick sketching, I've done sessions where I've got a model to do 100 different poses and I'm quite likely at my Life Drawing group if I've got spare time at the end to do drawings of the whole room - model and artists"; www.franciswardale.com

by Charles Patey, "It is very rare that one gets the opportunity to draw multiple models."

Before and After; the Vulnerability of being Naked

Firstly I would like to thank you both for hosting such a splendid evening. Well done indeed and please sign me in for the next one!

It was great to be part of such an event. Everyone was so nice and I was very surprised how quickly the nerves dissappeared.

I was also surprised at how quickly we became a ‘community’ working together in genuine friendship and completely relaxed at being naked together. I am not sure this feeling of well being could have been achieved clothed. It was as if the vulnerability of being naked created an invisible bond between us. Really refreshing.

The artists output was also rather special and I look forward to seing the results on the web in due course.

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Questionnaire for New Models ~ Telegraph Hill Festival 2012

 Malcolm

  1. Have you done any life or other nude modelling before?

No none at all.

  1. Why do you want to participate in Spirited Bodies?

I would like to contribute to the festival event and to experience an opportunity to work with others to celebrate the real people we are. I also believe in the empowerment of women and hope that we all take away positive reflections from the evening.

  1. Do you have experience as a performer or artist?

No none at all.

  1. Do you have experience in martial arts or sport/fitness?

No none at all although I do try to keep reasonably fit and exercise most mornings.

  1. Do you have experience in meditation?

No not really.

  1. What is the longest length of time you think you can hold still for?

It would depend upon the hold I suspect anything from 15 minutes to half an hour? Or am I kidding myself?

  1. Do you mind touching another model whilst posing e.g. holding hands?

No not at all. I am happy to interact as appropriate.

  1. Do you mind or want to be photographed whilst posing, and if so to what degree i.e. identifiable or not?

I am happy to be photographed in any pose and don’t mind being recognised.

  1. How old are you?

I am 58

  1. How would you describe yourself physically?

Reasonably fit, can run 5000k and enjoy walking and swimming

Project Unbreakable, & Walking the Walk

Today I visited Sylvie who modelled at our recent event. She has described how participating has lined up with her own journey of transformation (https://spiritedbodies.com/2012/02/12/little-pieces-of-me-by-sylvie-rouhani/) with regard to healing from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. She recently started her own blog for her art and poetry, and felt inspired when through the world of blogging she came across ‘Project Unbreakable’. Started by Grace Brown in the US, it is for survivors of sexual abuse to come out perhaps, by means of being photographed with a sign stating a quote of their abuser.

Sylvie’s powerful idea is to take part in the next Spirited Bodies – on 21st March at Telegraph Hill Festival – and make such a sign for herself for the occasion. When nude she will pose with the sign at least for a photograph to send to Grace to join the thousands that Grace receives. We don’t know if anyone has done this nude before, but it seems to make a lot of sense, since such difficult experiences can affect the way we feel about our bodies in a huge way. It may be quite subtle, yet highly destructive, making someone ashamed of themselves somehow. To confront this issue any which way how is surely empowering for any soul. In some pictures the person is not identifiable, the face not visible, but it is the act which demonstrates strength, and solidarity since many others are participating.

I am getting a sense that our upcoming event is about healing the heart. I felt upset when following the joy of the last event, an issue about photographs possibly spoilt some people’s experience. I never want that to happen again; it goes against the whole ethos of Spirited Bodies. In future if there is photography I will communicate much more clearly with every model about that in advance, and take pains to stage any photos taken so that no one is upset.

There was a flip-side to the mishap, in that some models who had not been so keen on being seen in a photo, once they saw the results, did change their minds remarkably, especially in the light of the unexpected levels of joy they experienced when participating. The photograph was a happy memory. But for any who trusted us less afterwards, I am sorry. Overall it was a valuable lesson.

One of Alex B's images from 'The Drawing Theatre', Spirited Bodies

Living and learning must be key. And fate gave me a suitable nod shortly after the photograph debacle. Having been body painted by my friend Caroline Young for the Paradise Jam in Broxbourne on 16th February, with one particular glitter tattoo on my back, I then had occasion to model nude on a catwalk in London Fashion Week for a hat designer on the 21st. The tattoo still intact, press photographers snapped my bottom avidly which was highlighted by the glitter. It, minus the hat, made it to page 3 of the Metro the next day much to my and Caroline’s delight!

Robyn Coles, the designer, fared better with her other models for her campaign, who served her purpose better from the front. A pregnant glamour model glowed sensationally, and Alex B strutted regally, amongst our number.

Backstage at the show I did not feel a big sense of belonging. I was not uncomfortable about my body, in fact the opposite. We had been told ‘basic make-up’, and I wore none. I think it is that I struggle to get excited about fashion and that showed. I did enjoy the catwalking however, which was to the tune of Lana Del Rey‘s ‘Born to Die’. Reckon body painting is more my thing!

I enjoyed posing with Caroline Young's body paint - photo by Alex Eve

Back in Drama School, at Rose Bruford 8 years ago I made a piece of theatre about facing demons of the past. I asked an old friend to take part as his story was powerful and had moved me. He portrayed in some theatrical form his tale of childhood sexual abuse. He said it was cathartic to stand up and perform this painful part of his past. To come out and say it, and actually be real on stage, in front of strangers. The audience were young and they laughed at first, but in the end we felt victorious for doing the performance project our way. In a way that felt most meaningful.

He said recently that he has gotten much reward over the years from connecting with other survivors who have had similar experiences. Once they have reached a certain stage in processing the damage, there is something about them which resonates clearly as they lack a more usual layer of bullshit apparent in so many people. They appreciate the value of things, life, better perhaps. And processing one’s struggle with others is part of what stops the damage from being heavily internalised. The easiest way, he points out, for the abuse cycle to continue and be passed on by one who has been abused becoming an abuser him/herself, is to not truly connect with others about the matter.

What I find becoming apparent is, 20 odd years ago there seemed to be a minority of victims, but now a growing awareness suggests  more likely a majority. So by joining up with Project Unbreakable for example, there is a strength in numbers. A knowledge of being far from alone. A power to let potential and actual aggressors know that they may be outflanked.

The next Spirited Bodies will welcome survivors and those who want to support them. Life modelling in a group can be healing in various capacities, and I will focus on this aspect of the event to drive it forwards.