The Vagina Monologues

On 2nd March 2017, at Hamilton House in Bristol, the doors opened to the public at 7pm, ready for the ‘Screening: The Vagina Monologues’.

The Vagina Monologues were written by Eve Ensler, a writer who was – and still is – obsessed with vagina’s. Each year she publishes a new monologue, but still constantly conducts interviews with multitudes of women gaining various views on vagina’s.

I was asked by Ellen Counsell – a connection I made during my time at FEAR – to be a part of her project. Myself and 10 other women performed at least one of the monologues in front of a set cameras, allowing the project to be fashioned for the screen.

The monologue I was given was ‘The Little Coochi Snorcher That Could’; a powerful monologue dictating a young girl’s life through memories from the age of 5 and 16, explaining events that occurred to her such as injury, rape, and a politically incorrect salvation. It was a text that I was in no way used to reading, let alone performing, making the entire experience an eye opening one at the least, especially with acting for the screen being a new step in my performing history also.

The event was created to raise awareness and money for the charity ‘Wish’, which supports those who have been victims of rape and abuse.

The overall reception was small but well received, causing me to be quite emotional by the end of the screening. It was such a daring, new moment in my performing career, and I would honestly love to pursue in more charitable events such as these in the future.

Think Generously

[Whilst seeming like trivial text, my research into selfish minds has prompted me to voice my own suggestion on how to self medicate the world, one mind at a time, to help it be a less hateful murmur of noise.]

We need to all start thinking of others, before ourselves. Sometimes, other people may need something more than us, and our instinctive reaction should be one of understanding, not judgement.

  • The bus driver may have pulled over and started to rummage for his phone. He could be expecting an important phone call regarding a close family member should be our first thought, instead of what an inconvenience, I’m going to be late.
  • A close friend could have a snappy attitude one day. Ignore your judgement roaring how rude, and instead imagine what inner battles they are fighting; they could be reacting badly to some new medication.
  • Somebody might be hogging the bathroom while unknowingly blocking your daily routine. Thoughts like why are they taking so long, I need to use the bathroom, should alternatively be are they OK, is everything physically alright?

Other people may simply need something more than you, which coincidentally compliments how we all lead such independent lives and diverse ways of living. We need to respect that difference. What might be of an inconvenience to you, may be a life altering instant for another.

We’re all so desperate to be understood, we forget to be understanding.

So through our attempts at increased understanding of one another, we may discover a hobby that helps us. Or a new job. Or maybe even a somebody. Find whatever makes you a better you. Think optimistically, openly, newly and fresh. For positive thoughts never attract negative energy.

Our world is packed full of magpies with selfish appetites, constantly trying to buy things we don’t want, with money we don’t have, to please people we don’t like. We all may want to leave our mark on the world; but you can’t help others, without saving yourself first.

La La Land

At risk of beginning to sound like one of the many self-acclaimed film critics that have surfaced over the past couple of weeks, I regretfully announce that I too, am going to talk about La La Land.

While my inner sap refuses to believe that the ending was intentional (and that they clearly just created an extra 2 minutes of filming to fill some sort of ridiculous quota) the film as a whole had me gripped from the beginning, and still won’t let me go. While the little man who lives in my Spotify app must be sick of me pressing play on the soundtrack’s album, and my housemates probably know all the words to ‘A Lovely Night’ due to my nightly shower performances, it’s clear this production is something that isn’t going to leave the minds of everyone who’s seen it, including me, for a very long time.

As a dancer, I naturally find it hard to watch any form of movement and not allow my body to be sucked into the infectious rhythm it provides, and La La Land was no exception. With the opening scene being a 5-minute-long intro filled with a catchy tune, and numerous traffic jammers dancing on top of their stuck cars, I felt my hips already wiggling in my seat, and knew this would be a restless viewing. Lucky for me, after the first 45 minutes or so, the dance numbers died down to beautiful melodies and background music instead, allowing my hips and clammy hands a chance to recuperate before the end.

Yet even with lack of flowing movements and stunning lyrics, the film was still, visually eye catching. It was clear from the first second that colour was a character in itself, popping up in every frame; whether it be in the primary colours of the housemates’ dresses, or the dulled pastels across the sky in the backdrop of the budding romance’s first ‘flit’. Colour played a huge role, and for anyone who knows me, they know that I love colour [See my Media Collaborations and Projects page under Gallery to see my Second Year Film, Colour]. It’s inspired me to really focus in on the use of colour in frames for my Dissertation. In the short samples I have already created for my project, my colour palette seeming to focus on the dull, tin-like shade of blue from day to day travelling, and a wash of pink that clouded the sky of Bath a week or so ago, it’s magenta colour fading to crimson and lilac as the night deepened.

Colour is everywhere, and I intend to really hone in on its presence and focus in films. Not only was colour a huge factor towards my growing love for La La Land, but also the use of light in it too; as a shot panned across a room taking in one of the disheartened duo, the small glare from the lamp in the corner would flash across the screen quickly. Or even the lack of it was astounding; as Gosling would stroll across the peer at sundown, the salmon sky shading everything into a musky grey or pastel purple. This again, draws back on the wonders of colour, and ultimately proves how these two twin together so perfectly.

One final thing that I noticed, that I so desperately want to try and inject into my own independent project, is how ridiculously well maneuvered the camera was, in order to capture intense one shot scenes. The adaptable set of the apartment, the real-time slow motion of walking through a crowd, and the winding back and forth between cars at the start are all things that you don’t tend to appreciate until you fully realise the extent the camera crew went to in order to gain these shots.

As the story line picked up, the initial flare of ‘Hollywood pizazz’ began to die down slightly, but the instant flourish at the beginning of the film had a kind of substance I want to use, to grab viewers with my own work. Hence, why the pairing of Damien Chazelle’s directorship and Linus Sandgren’s cinematography will be key inspirations towards the making of my dissertation.

Sherlock Scandal

As one who is uneducated in celebrity gossip and not an avid reader of any particular newspaper, I found I got sucked into an article recently written by The Telegraph. After a swift glance over how Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freemans’ “frosty relationship” was putting the potential of a Season 5 to Sherlock at risk, a quote by Freeman’s now ex-wife, Amanda Abbington, resonated with me. After discussing how playing a freshly-crumbling couple with a new born in the series shared definite similarities to their previous home lives together, she explained how distance between them due to Freeman’s booming career became a major factor in their marriages’ demise. Abbington clarifies that…

“you can’t be away from people for too long, because you start to function on your own, and you get used to being separate [from] the person you’re supposed to be with. You lose connection and lose sight of it, in the end.”

Despite my lack of knowledge regarding what marriage with Freeman is personally like, the situation struck a chord with a recent event that happened to me early November last year. After a mutual decision to end a 4-year long relationship, it was quite clear that my then-boyfriend and I had become quite different people, while the long distance paid no benefits to the situation. We had begun to function separately while living on opposite ends of the country, and with both of our futures mapping out differently, we slowly ‘lost sight of our connection’.

With projects ending and starting during the epicentre of such chaos in my head, my approach to life altered rapidly – even more so since starting Third Year! With a change of heart, came a change to my Independent Project; a scrapping to my previous months of research if you will, in an attempt to liberate myself from the shackles that were everyone’s expectations.

So, came the new and improved Dissertation:

What is more important – ‘You’ or ‘Your’? A Digital Exploration into being Selfish and Selfless

Not only is the process going to be a journey for myself, to breach the line between digital visualisation and full-body, mind-numbing emotions, but also a way to help break the stigma so often coupled with mental health, by trying to be a voice for the expression of other’s emotions. I want the confusion, that captivates the mind in intense reactions, to be empathised, but misunderstood in my work; much like a generalised response to the stigma already. I can only hope I live up to my already high expectations of my final year project.

FEAR

For the last 2 weeks of October, leading up to Halloween, I was involved in an immersive phyimg_5762sical theatre performance called FEAR at Avon Valley, as a scare actor. The event was open to the public, who willingly bought tickets to walk through scare mazes, filled with actors like myself. With the three main  attractions being run by Unlocked Vision, I was placed into Anarchy: LIVE. This scare maze was created through the idea of a real life Hunger Games, with customers being the ‘fresh batch’ of contestants for each new game. The maze consisted of three roles to act in – There were the Hosts, who welcomed everyone into the maze,  the Contestant’s, who had gone violently mad from surviving the maze so long, and then finally the Cannibal’s, whose only aim was to eat, attack and intimidate anyone who crossed their path. After dabbling in the role of a contestant, I was placed as a cannibal for the rest of the performances, truly finding my niche within the ‘Skinny Maze’ – a thin palette-ed maze cloaked in strobe lights, smoke and darkness.

I learnt so many new things bimg_5761eing involved in such a large scale production: I learnt close up improvisation [having to react to every customer differently to truly immerse them in the experience], how a close knit team works under pressure [with a code word of ‘Wilson’ easily yelled and spread like wild fire for any difficult customers easily, and an E-Stop button readily available for any emergencies] and how important communication is in a high energy paced environment [with a record time of 4 minutes, a broken piece of set, smashed wall or any other safety issues were quickly sorted by the maintenance team running through the maze. after being called on the radios situated in the acting corridors].

The experience was unlike any job I’d ever had to endure – especially when the aim was to make as many people cry, scream, or wet themselves as you can. Naturally, it’s not the most common job description, but it is certainly one I will consider again in the future.

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Networking Works

Within the space of 10 days, I witnessed the true extent of successful, accidental networking. Despite not communicating within the last 4 years, Sam Plumbley, my old music teacher from my secondary school, Arnold Lodge in Leamington Spa, messaged me with a job opportunity. She explained how she was to be directing a concert, in St. Peters Church in Rugby, hosted by The Rugby Music Union (a prestigious society that has been performing extensive and high quality repertoire since 1895) on the 15th October 2016, with the theme of “beginnings and developments”. Her offer was that she wondered if there was a chance I’d be able to perform a ballet cross contemporary improvisation, alongside a rendition of Beethoven’s Ballet, Prometheus.

The offer was too good an opportunity to dismiss, and I quickly accepted. The following 9 days resulted in constant contact with Sam, discussing style of movement, size of the dance area within the church, structure of sections within the piece of music, costume ideas alongside payment, planned rehearsals and even lifts and transport to and from the event.

After being sent recordings of herself and the flutist playing the music, I loosely choreographed some movement to the sounds; following her request of that the movement be natural, hence, a mild improvisation.

The concert itself consisted of performances from church choirs, chamber choirs, soloists and a primary school choir. With myself being the only ‘performance’, there was a lot of pressure resting on my shoulders, especially since they were being bared in a leotard for the costume aesthetic – an item of clothing I hadn’t worn in a couple of years! Despite the jolted rehearsal, and the overcoming of the carpeted floor with canvas ballet shoes, the night mellowed as the concert commenced. The live music, combined with the earnest eyes aging from 7 to 70, enveloped the rendition and lifted my developing confidence in improvising immensely.

As the concert ended, never had I been thanked to dance for and by, so many people of an elderly status. The entire opportunity opened my eyes to a whole world of elderly people that wish to relive their old dancing days, through the complimenting of those with a younger, and more agile body.

It is certainly an open avenue that I may consider; dance classes for the elderly.