In this guest blog, playwright Emma Adams tells AYT about performing her own work for the first time and explains how being dyslexic has made her a pragmatic writer…
Ordinarily I’m a playwright. However in just under a month I’ll be walking out on stage as the sole performer of my play, Freakoid. On good days this feels strange but exciting. On bad days it makes me freeze with fear. So why make that decision?
Here are three things that begin to explain it:
1. A desire to be a better writer.
If you perform your own work there is nowhere to hide. It’s brutal but by the end of the process you see things for what they are. There are lines that are beautiful on the page but which turn shit in the mouth. These should be avoided. There are moments in a script where you lose the handle as a writer. You don’t realise you’ve lost it but you have. These lines never quite work but you can’t work out why. Naturally under normal circumstances you tend to choose to blame the actor. It is not so easy to fall into this trap if it is you who is doing the performing. I may never perform again but I’ll never forget these lessons.
2. Barefaced pragmatism / opportunism
I’m dyslexic. To be clear, I don’t mean I am someone who occasionally spells ‘their’ instead of ‘there’ and then giggles about how annoying that is. When I say dyslexic, I mean, full-on, full-fat, didn’t learn to read and write until I was 10, did remedial-boot-class and even now, when I write it’s an epic battle of wills. I explain this because I want you to understand that being dyslexic means I have a very particular relationship to the written word. Writing is not my friend. I do not love writing. It often makes me cry. I write plays out of compulsion. It is a way to question, share ideas and connect. That’s it… The upshot then is that I’m pretty pragmatic about writing. So in a sense, the decision to perform was a logical progression. Out of a development process came a surprise offer. A chance to make a full version of Freakoid in co-production with Ovalhouse. I wasn’t expecting this but suddenly on a very basic level here was a chance to have my work on in London at an amazing theatre. Yes, it would mean I’d have to face the fear of performing but these chances don’t come round everyday. “Seize the fucking day”, I thought. And so I did.
3. A stubborn, weird, idealistic streak
I have been thinking, as we find ourselves being faced down by a multi-whammy-wave of fear (climate change, the collapse of capitalism, bio-devastation, zealous religiosities and the globalised corporate appropriation of our democratic process) that if one was looking for a good time to pin one’s colours to the mast of ‘finding a positive alternative’ then now would probably be a good time… Freakoid is a show that is a big experiment in how far you can push silliness to explore a serious point. How much fun can we all have while thinking about some of the ultra dark places human beings go? Can the fun bits make it easier to see and name the dark bits? If they do, does that help bring some light? That’s what we’re working on in the rehearsal room… I am not an actor but on this occasion I do absolutely believe in standing in the space and taking responsibility for what Freakoid is attempting to explore. Right now that feels important.
So that’s it. When I find myself screaming “WHY?” I remind myself of these three things. I also remember that I have an incredible, inspired director in Sarah Applewhite, a really talented team behind her (there is no such thing as a one-woman show!) and a ready supply of plastic pants. In these things I put my trust. Onward.