Wednesday, 13 August 2014


Cross-posted from National Theatre Wales community. I was fortunate recently to take part in Summer Camp, a scheme run by NTW under their WalesLab programme, which supports artist development in Wales.

About half-way through Summer Camp, after a day which had been in every way - I don’t use this word lightly - perfect, I experienced the corresponding crash, the coming-down-to-earth. Nothing specific was wrong. I hadn’t fallen out with anyone. The sun was still shining (for two weeks! in Pembrokeshire!). The ocean was still there. I had a day filled with activities with people I liked and admired.

But I was tired, emotionally and physically. I’d had a perfect day, only the day before, without even trying. Perfect. These don’t come often in my life - do they come often in anyone’s? With that taste in my mouth, I was determined to push through my tiredness, determined not to waste a second. And so I did a lot that day, the day-after-perfection. I had conversations about failure, the topic of a project that I am working on. I dressed in a bright pink leotard and tutu (always dress better and brighter than you feel) and walked off a jetty into the sea while being filmed. I spent an hour dancing, moving, with a new friend; a quiet hour that left me feeling humbled by what had been shared. I spent 10 minutes having my heart broken by the raw openness in another artist’s one-to-one piece.

And in the middle of this complicated day, I sat down in my room and recorded a “message in a bottle” for myself. I keep a journal, but I had the sense that I would need emotion and nuances, the low tiredness of my voice, and the sounds of seagulls in the background - much more than words. I haven’t listened to that recording yet. I’m saving it, perhaps for a hard, dark day in February. I think it will be a reminder of the perfection that lies in glorious sunshine, and the sweet intimacy of performing, and new friendships, and good food. And it will also be a reminder of all that rushes in to the empty space left when those highs of happiness slip away (because I don’t think anyone can sustain those highs for long). I learn so much from the latter. I learned so much that day after: finding connections, finding play, finding the art in the exhaustion, and the slight throbbing headache, and the sense of obligation to others. And I think that’s a lesson that may sustain me more as I negotiate my life with the experience of Summer Camp behind me.

I am very grateful for the experience of both the perfection and the after.  Massive thanks to all who made Summer Camp 2014 happen - Simon Coates, fellow Campers, and all the wonderful NTW team who were there or who popped over to West Wales for a visit. I’d do it all again in a flash.