Writer Abi Hynes blogs about the premiere of 7 Veils: An evening with Mata Hari, and what’s next for the show.
It’s difficult, isn’t it, to say goodnight after such a lovely evening? Saying goodbye is horrible, really…
It must be Cardinal Sin No.1 to quote your own play, but I know how Mata Hari feels. Saying goodbye to a show you’ve lived and breathed for its (in this case, 11 month) development period is really hard. So, before I let go of 7 Veils for the time being, please allow me to indulge in a little post-show round up… To recap, then. I made a show. On New Year’s Eve 2013, Laura and I decided that we wanted to make a solo show together, and now, almost a year later, we’ve had our first performances. We made it in an unusual way. Laura and I have now been working together on theatre and film projects for several years, and the result is a kind of creative synergy that can’t be manufactured in the pressures of the standard 2-4 week rehearsal period. We have an understanding about the kind of work we want to make. When we disagree on something, we know it’s all part of pursuing a shared goal. It’s a rare and special thing. We were also fortunate in being able to give ourselves time to make the show we really wanted to. The decision not to – on this occasion – apply for funding, meant that we traded financial assistance for the freedom to work without restrictions, and to make something that we felt showcased our particular skills and explored what fascinated us. It’s not sustainable forever, of course; with both of us working day jobs, it’s been an exhausting year. But it’s also a luxury, to be able to work only within the boundaries we set ourselves. And then there was the creative process itself. Over our last few projects together, Laura and I have developed a way of making theatre that is part devised and part scripted. It varies from project to project, but in this case it went something like this…
- Research and discussion. We brought in everything we came across connected to Mata Hari, gradually putting together a timeline of key events in her life. We picked out the bits we were most interested in.
- I brought in bits and pieces of script. Sometimes they were lifted from letters, diaries, Wikipedia articles… usually edited and added to and formed into something that might be the start of a scene. We pulled these apart, mercilessly. I went home to rewrite them.
- More script cutting – and a lot of experimenting. And, of course, trying to find a structure that makes all our material start to feel like a theatre show.
And, finally, we were fortunate in our choice of subject. Mata Hari is a gift of a character – and really, you couldn’t make it up. I’ll admit – when reading some of our lovely reviews – I was kind of horrified to spot references to her ‘morally reprehensible behaviour’ and ‘distasteful choices’. I like to think that we flatly refuse to judge her in our show. More than that – we cherish, respect and celebrate her (though, admittedly, through the medium of pornography, absinthe shots and sexy dancing).
I miss our girl already. But it’s very comforting to know that we haven’t seen the last of her. We’ve already started to make plans for the show in 2015, so keep an eye out for announcements to follow.
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As Laura generously pointed out in her recent blog, 7 Veils is a solo show on the surface only, and we’ve been incredibly lucky to have the support of a talented and dedicated team. This included our wonderful producer Annika Edge, our composers (Tom Byrne and Sam Lewis-Ellot), our guest directors (Alice Robinson of Clown Lab and Viv Gardner), our technicians (Tom again, and Richard Lomax), our photographer (Phil Benbow), our choreography adviser (Ceris Faulkner), our costume makers (Dan and Alice Rowbottom of Rowbot Street), our trailer creator (Rachel Fernandez-Arias), our brilliant panel who watched the show first stagger to its feet, and our friends Clem and Juul who taught Laura how to do a French accent and pronounce Dutch names and places. Our thanks also go to James Baker and the brilliant team at The Kings Arms, and to Mike Heath, Gayle Hare and the rest of the Studio Salford collective, which we are very proud to be part of.