Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Accidents And Emergencies R&D at West Yorkshire Playhouse... Blog 2: Post-It Notes were invented by accident.

I've just finished a weeks long R+D at West Yorkshire Playhouse. Working under the title of 'Accidents and Emergencies' Sarah Applewhite (who directed Freakoid -see earlier posts) and I set out to spend a week playing with the idea of 'what happens when you find yourself out on the boundaries of your comfort zone? What does it do to you as a person and to your creativity?' We wanted to do this work because of our experience of making Freakoid earlier in the year.  While making that show was a fantastic thing and while great things have come from it, it was by far the most scary creative thing either of us have ever done. We both had to learn producing on the job. I had to perform. Sarah had to learn lighting design and sound and tech operating... In short there were times, hidden times largely, when we both felt entirely out of our depth...  But something amazing happened in those moments. It wasn't always fun but it was interesting... So we thought we would take that thinking forward and explore it more. But this time in a slightly safer setting... The only rule of the week was that we would try as far as possible to work in ways we do not usually work. And we did. We played out. We did stuff we never do. We did stuff we do sometimes but tweaked it to make it feel different. We went into the room and I lay down my playwright hat and Sarah's took her director hat off too... And then we worked... We talked honesty. We did dancing. We made Youtube videos. We played drama games to see if we could find a point for them. We could not. But we did find a way to bring a positive ending to Romeo and Juliet by hot-seating the monk. We did making music, formed a band and created a theme tune. We discovered the world of Prepping. We did things that frighten us. We talked about what we want to do with our work and what we fear might be stopping us from being as good as we want to be. So, yes, we learnt a ton... At the start of the week we didn't know if this work would mark the beginning of a new piece of work or would be something else.  It turns out it was something else. We have learnt so much about what we want to do next but it's not a devised piece. We realised that despite the fun/fear/learning there is to be had working outside your comfort zones, sometimes its good to focus in on what you do well and love to do. So we have decided to focus on reworking Freakoid. But this time I'm going to focus on the writing and Sarah's going to get to direct a performer who really wants to be on stage... We think this way we will finally make the play we were always dreaming of making. There will be more on this if we can get the funding. Watch this space as they say. Anyway. Having moments of R+D like this to take time and explore is absolute gold dust. Huge thanks to Amy Letman and West Yorkshire Playhouse for having us for the week... 

We did MOUNDS of writing exercises during the week. Here's example 2: 


Sarah and I were thinking about happy accidents. Things go wrong but sometimes out of the mess of wrongness good things happen...

Post-It Notes were invented by accident



Post-It Notes were invented by accident. I read that somewhere and I’m sure its true. The act of reading something seems to leave me with the sense that the thing I’ve read is a fact. Seeing things in black and white gives it a power. Which is why I’ve taken the decision to keep away from texts like Mein Kampf. 

Having said that. My memory for the actual detail of what I’ve read isn’t great. So here’s what I can remember … The happy accident that brought Post-It Notes to the world.

There is this fucked up scientist, right? He or she, though in most stories he is a he because it makes the story better. More believable. Men you see find it difficult to associate themselves with female characters. They can fear them, be intrigued by them or wish to fuck them, but they can’t make that transition to feel like the thing that is happening to ‘them’ is happening to ‘me’. Supposedly. Meanwhile, women and girls have the ability to associate strongly with all gender characters. They can take on their point of view and feel it as their own. This is why women like stories about men but men don’t like stories about women. Generally. Talking in brushstrokes…  Of course it could be that women have simply learnt to find a way to be interested in the vast pile of stories that only have men in them. Or only have women in them with character names like Whore 1 and so on. It could be that it’s a response to the way stories about men have been normalised as universal stories, as relevant stories, as interesting stories (as opposed to women focused narratives which are seen as niche with limited appeal). Perhaps women have just kind of learnt to find the joy they can, in the stories that surround them? 

Fuck knows. 

I mean I’m speculating here. 

However. Who wants speculation? In this day and age?  What we want are badly remembered facts, read in articles and regurgitated as gospel. 

Probably.

Anyway, lets get back to the post-it note and the scientist. Right?  

He’s working away on this adhesive. For the motor trade. Or something. I can’t remember exactly what. Something that needs sticking in a new way. But the adhesive isn’t working. It wasn’t working. Right? It was shit. It was a total waste of fucking time. This is his life’s work. But everything was fucked. And his wife was sick of hearing about the glue and all his promises that “This time, this gule was really going to work”…

And his kids were like 

“You are a fucking loser, glue-man!”

That’s what they called him. “Fucking loser glue-man”

Imagine that? Your own kids.

And he’s struggling to pay the mortgage and now he’s heard that the car manufacturer is on the brink of trying someone else’s glue because it’s not just his wife, they too are sick to the back teeth of the scientist’s promises about 

“This time the glue will really work. It will! It really will stick the bit of the car to the other bit of the car that really needs sticking”

So then the day comes. The day comes when enough is enough and the car manufacturer, the boss of the scientist, right? They/he rings up and says

“Hey fella!”

Because this is all happening in America. All the best stories happen there. 

So yeah, they said, he is saying, on voice mail as it happens. They are leaving this message on voicemail. They are not even bothering to tell the scientist this in person. Because this is capitalism in America. This is Capitalism at its harsh, sharpest edge. And so they are screaming at him. They are sacking him. On the voice mail. He said. They say

“Hey Fella! We are outta time here already. Your fricking glue sucks and we are finished with you. Finished man. We are going with Zak Boulder-Heim’s outfit as of now. Period.”

They say period in America. They do not mean a bloody discharge. They mean a full stop.

And then there’s a click. And the phone goes dead…

Have you noticed in American stories how the characters always have names like Zak Boulder-Heim? 

I like that.

Anyway. Our scientist, he hates Zak Boulder-Heim. He hates this fucker. He is his arch nemesis and also his wife’s former lover. And possibly the real father of his eldest son. I mean the thought crosses his mind. It does. It did. His eldest kid. He’s called Randy. Obviously. His eldest son. He looks just like Zak. I mean he really does. The eyes. Everything. And it’s Randy who started with the ‘fucking loser glue-man’ thing. They’ve just never bonded. Failing to bond. It’s the story of the scientist’s life.

So, on this day, hearing this voicemail. Hearing that he has lost his job to the man who is still sniffing around his wife and probably the father of Randy. It’s the last straw.  He looks at his life and he thinks 

“What the fuck is it worth? Really? What the fuck is my life worth?”

And so the scientist decides to end it. I mean he’s been thinking about it for a while. On and off.  It’s not a new thought. But now. Right now. Then. The thought becomes possible as something that could become an action.  He realises that he really could put his colt 45 in his mouth and squeeze the trigger. Because he obviously has a gun in his top drawer. This is America. Of course he has a gun. All American’s in the best American stories have a gun. 

So he decides to write a note.  He’s not certain why because he’s not certain if his wife or kids will even miss him. But he’s a traditional kind of man. A decent, traditional man who’s tried all of his life to do the right thing. And this attempt to write a note feels like the right thing to do. So he writes, wrote. He writes:

“ Dear Mindy (Mindy is his wife), Randy, Bradford Jnr (That’s his middle boy) and Summer (his youngest girl. She’s 5 and loves her Dad and never calls him a fucking cunt, douchebag or loser glue man), I love you guys with all my heart. I tried stepping up to the plate but that plate? Well that plate was a hell of a step a way. And? Well guys it turns out your Dad’s not a real man after all. You’ll be better off without me.”

And then he’s pretty much ready.  He’s pretty much ready to blow his brains out. He just needs to find a safe secure place to leave his note… 

The fridge would be the smart place. The place where the family would be sure to find it and see it and read it before coming into the living room where he intends to blow his face off. He doesn’t want Summer to see that. He needs to be certain that his note will be seen before Summer reaches the living room and starts looking for the TV remote and instead finds her Daddy with his brains all smushed into the carpet and all over the wall… 

Only, he’s looking and he just can’t find… No… It looks like there is no tape in the house… And the blue-tac all got used up at Christmas and "Damn it all, for sweet Jesus sake!" There is nothing in this damn Condo that will stick his note to the fridge… Which is when he, the scientist, gets the idea, got the idea, to use his glue. He has a little pot of the latest formula in his basement lab… And then, you guessed it… On applying his glue to the note, he can’t help noticing the excellent tacky quality. The light touch stickiness of his note. How it peels on and off the fridge so easily… This weak bond quality, so disappointing and so looked down on by his bosses and Zak when it came to gluing car bits together, now seems/seemed excellent.  So there he was. Is. Standing. Sticking, unpeeling and sticking again and again. Over and over. 

And then for the first time in months. He smiles.

That’s how it happened. That’s how post-it notes came to be. Or. That’s the gist anyway.  A happy accident. Not that it saved the scientist’s marriage.  But at least he was alive to see Mindy return to Zak. And at least he was alive to finally notice that Randy so had his oddly shaped toes, so must be his. And at least he wasn't dead so got to spend time with Randy, Bradford Jnr and Summer every other weekend, enjoying soda and shooting hoops or targets at the shooting range. Summer is a sniper in the making. Makes her daddy proud. And in short, he got happy. Or happy enough.

And that’s the truth. And if you don’t believe me? Google it.

Accidents And Emergencies R&D at West Yorkshire Playhouse... Blog 1: People Who Are Going To Die

I've just finished a weeks long R+D at West Yorkshire Playhouse. Working under the title of 'Accidents and Emergencies' Sarah Applewhite (who directed Freakoid -see earlier posts) and I set out to spend a week playing with the idea of 'what happens when you find yourself out on the boundaries of your comfort zone? What does it do to you as a person and to your creativity?' We wanted to do this work because of our experience of making Freakoid earlier in the year.  While making that show was a fantastic thing and while great things have come from it, it was by far the most scary creative thing either of us have ever done. We both had to learn producing on the job. I had to perform. Sarah had to learn lighting design and sound and tech operating... In short there were times, hidden times largely, when we both felt entirely out of our depth...  But something amazing happened in those moments. It wasn't always fun but it was interesting... So we thought we would take that thinking forward and explore it more. But this time in a slightly safer setting... The only rule of the week was that we would try as far as possible to work in ways we do not usually work. And we did. We played out. We did stuff we never do. We went into the room and I lay down my playwright hat and Sarah's took her director hat off too... And then we worked... We talked honesty. We did dancing. We made Youtube videos. We played drama games to see if we could find a point for them. We could not. But we did find a way to bring a positive ending to Romeo and Juliet by hots-eating the monk. We did making music, formed a band and created an 'Accidents and Emergencies' theme tune. We discovered the world of Prepping. We did things that frighten us. We talked about what we want to do with our work and what we fear might be stopping us from being as good as we want to be. So, yes, we learnt a ton... At the start of the week we didn't know if this work would mark the beginning of a new piece of work or would be something else.  It turns out it was something else. We have learnt so much about what we want to do next but it's not a devised piece. We realised that despite the fun/fear/learning there is to be had working outside your comfort zones, sometimes its good to focus in on what you do well and love to do. So we have decided to concentrate on reworking Freakoid. But this time I'm going to focus on the writing and Sarah's going to get to direct a performer who really wants to be on stage... We think this way we will finally make the play we were always dreaming of making. There will be more on this if we can get the funding. Watch this space as folk say. Anyway. Having moments of R+D like this, to take time and explore is absolute gold dust. Huge thanks to Amy Letman and West Yorkshire Playhouse for having us for the week... 

We did MOUNDS of writing exercises during the week. Here's example 1: 

Sarah and I were thinking about things that make us feel safe. We both realised that we put great store by certain people out in the world that we have never met, but who feel like friends to us. And then, being us, we started to worry about what would happen if those people were taken away...



People Who Are Going To Die:

It’s difficult to think about, but Tony Benn is going to die. One day pretty soon. He’s going to die, partly because he’s a million years old now, which isn’t his fault. But also, he’s going to die because he’s a pipe smoker. It’s part of his brand isn’t it? Though he would never use that kind of jargon. He would hate that. But anyone who loves Tony Benn knows he’s a pipe man. He smokes. It’s part of his M.O. And yet. It’s a problem. 

And I don’t want Tony to have a problem. I love Tony Benn. I have done for as long as I can remember. 

I have a recurring fantasy about him.  It goes like this:

We meet in a hotel room in Morcambe bay. It’s a single room with a purple nylon bed coverlet that sits on the little single bed. There is 70’s wallpaper. A teas-made. Some cheap mahogany veneered furniture. 

Tony arrives. I arrive. We don’t speak. Tony just lies down on the bed. He then removes his pipe from his lips. I take off my glasses and then Tony opens his arms and I get onto the bed and cuddle in. And we just stay like that. Cuddling for the longest time. Nothing else happens. Sometimes we might hear the seagulls crying outside the room…

Eventually of course we have to part. Tony picks up his pipe and I know its time for us to go.

I find this fantasy very comforting…

Anyway.  The point is. Anyone who loves Tony Benn knows that he has smoked his pipe forever and that he loves a cup of tea on the hour every hour and that he has a peculiar form of Leukaemia that is slowly killing him.  And I can’t help feeling livid with Tony. Because smoking kills. And it probably kills more if you have leukaemia already. So I want to find him and say ‘Tony! Stop smoking! Stop helping the leukaemia spread. We need you!” You are our talisman. We don’t have the vision or passion or commitment to actually attempt to do anything about the shit-fuck-mess that we are all in. What we have is our love for you. And our knowledge that you are out there fighting for us, dictating your diary and basically being alive and brilliant. Simply by being alive you are making the world better, more bearable place. And if you go and die on us now? If you die on us? On me? Then I’m going to have to start thinking about doing something about all the shit-fuck-mess myself. 

And that is avoidable. 

You are a selfish bastard Tony. Stop fucking smoking and don’t die.


This can be read out by anyone. They should read it while being stood up... A piece from 'The 7.30 News Bulletin' which was performed at Theatre in the Mill on Saturday 4th May 2013


I wrote this piece for a show curated / led by Daniel Bye called 'The 7.30 News Bulletin' which was performed at Theatre in the Mill  on Saturday 4th May 2013.

The show was made / performed by Dick Bonham, Evie Manning, Dermot Daly, Iain Bloomfield, Daniel Bye, Josh Coates and Lizi Patch. I did some writing as did Dominic Grace.  The set up consisted of folk coming together (I wasn't even meant to be there but, happily, got kind of dragged in) reading 3 days worth of newspapers and then responding by making a show...

On the night, the piece that follows below was performed by Dermot Daly.  I wish I could have seen him do it. I hear he was fantastic, but for reasons that will become clear, I couldn't be there...


Dermot Daly (photo by Jonathan Turner)

This can be read out by anyone. They should read it while being stood up

Hello there. I’m Emma Adams. I write plays and I’ve been working with the 7.30 news team over the last few days. So, just to let you know a little about myself, I’m 43 years old and I have lived around Bradford and Leeds all my life.

Also. To put all of your minds at rest. I’m white. And I don’t mean the Eastern European kind that is becoming such a worry for people writing in our papers. I’m absolutely the right kind of white that has always lived upon these shores. In so far as I have Scottish ancestry and so have a bit of Celtic blood. Probably. Anyway, Celts are white and have always lived upon these shores. Though it’s also probably fair to say that my DNA may have Norman and Viking tendencies too. Normans and Vikings were white but they invaded these shores. Plus, I have a great grandmother on my paternal side who was a Native American. But I think you’ll find I’m at least as white as all the other white people worrying about the over abundance of non-white and/or the wrong kind of white people who are invading our country. 

I say this because context is important. In the news. Isn’t it?

Anyway, I’m here, possessing the body of Dick/Evie/Dan/ Iain/Dermot Josh or Dom because I can’t be with you in my physical form tonight. This is because, at this very second I’m watching a different theatre show called ‘The Thing About Psychopaths’ by Red Ladder Theatre Company at The Lantern Theatre in Liverpool. This isn’t because I got kicked off Dan’s show by the way. Going to see the Red Ladder show is a long standing engagement. I wasn’t really even meant to be in this show. 3 days ago I came to Theatre in the Mill on a different errand but then got sucked into Dan’s evil web of creativity and never left. Until now. Obviously. 

Anyway, what else can I tell you? That’s important? That’s news? 

Because Dan asked that I write something for you. A news flash from a female perspective. Most of the people who applied to come and do the show with him this evening were, by coincidence, blokes and so he thought a female voice, here on stage could be important.

So what else? What’s news? From where I’m standing. As a woman.

Well, having read the papers over the last few days, I’ve realized, that the most important thing you’ll want to know is that I’ve got frankly enormous tits. 

I wouldn’t usually mention this in conversation, but it feels only right to put this out into the room. My juicy jugs are fucking titanic. And just to put all of your minds at rest, I’m going on record here tonight and am saying categorically that my great big hooters are all natural and have not been surgically altered.  Though because I’m a lesbian these lovely big handfuls are all of course going to waste.

That’s the headline dealt with. Is there anything else you need to know about me and the news? As a woman?

I have a fang. A weird tooth. It sticks out a bit. I quite like it. Mainly for the following reason. My fang means that in every single primary school I have ever visited doing creative sessions, at some point, a little group of children has gathered around my ankles and asked ‘Miss? Is it true?  Are you a vampire?’ 

I don’t believe in lying to children so I explain as calmly as I can ‘Yes children, you’re very, very observant. I am a vampire. All artists who rely on subsidy are fucking vampires, sucking the life blood of productivity out of this great nation of ours, destroying the entrepreneur spirit and weakening the gene pool.’ 

That’s what I tell them. Word for word. Apart from I don’t say ‘fucking’ when I’m really talking to primary children. I just put it in for you, just now, for effect, so that you’ll think I’m cool. 

And also so you’ll be distracted and not notice that the bit above, inspired by the Maria Miller speech from last week, was strictly speaking, old news. And old news is rubbish. But if you say fuck or fucking a bit, it freshens it up. Makes it feel more now. 

What else? What more can I flash at you from my personal female perspective? 

Because having said yes to Dan. Having said yes, I will do this piece for the show. The thing is, now that I’m sitting down to write. And to be clear, I am sitting. I know I look like I’m standing. But I’m not. I really am sitting down. But it probably just looks better to stage it this way, with me standing. And that’s fine. Isn’t it? To change things a bit. If it makes things look a bit better. I think so. Anyway I digress… The thing is, that now I’ve sat down to write, it’s all feeling like quite a big responsibility. I mean I may not have the skills and experience to talk for all women. And I don’t want to fuck this mission up. Now that I’ve accepted it, I want to get it right. You can understand that.

Or that’s how I felt when I was sitting down to write the piece. But of course now I’m sitting over in Liverpool. Watching Red Ladder’s show. And from what I can see here, I’m beginning to realise I needn’t have worried.

Because here in my audience, I notice that there are many, many women in the theatre. And if you look around yourselves, well look! There are many, many women sitting in the room here in the Mill too. Being silent. Watching. So instead of writing something on everyone’s behalf, I thought we could turn the lights on the audience and ask some relevant, pertinent questions of the women amongst us.

So lets get started. Ladies in the room, lets get right to the heart of it. Because it’s time to find out what everyone wants to know.

Have you started getting your bikini body ready for the summer yet? 

Monday, 12 August 2013

Reflections on meeting scientists researching Alzheimer's Disease at Kings College London, 10th July 2013

I wrote some reflections for Freedom Studios and Entelechy Arts after we returned from our week of R+D for 'The Home' (the play I am currently working on) in London (8th - 12th July)... During that time we had a chance to meet Professor Clive Ballard and his team who are working on Alzheimer's Disease. Here's what I wrote... 




The chance to meet Professor Ballard and some of his team members was magic.  It was a chance to enter an entirely different world and just for a moment be part of it, see how it works, notice how language works differently. How words are used differently. How life is thought about differently. That for a writer I think is an amazing opportunity. As was having the science and understanding around Alzheimer’s Disease explained.  As was the opportunity to ask a million questions and not to have to worry about whether they were stupid questions or not. The whole team was incredibly open and I’m thankful for how generous they were, giving us their time, sharing their knowledge and letting us see into their world.  

I was probably however most grateful for the things that happened that I wasn’t expecting. Because I suppose I was expecting the scientist’s world and my world to be different. But underneath all of that, the thing that surprised me was the similarities in our experience. Walking through the reception doors and seeing the plaque commemorating that Keats once studied at the University, reminded me that actually our worlds are not so very separate. There are unexpected resonances. Of course there is a level of particularity that is distinct and endlessly intriguing between ‘art’ and ‘science’.  But the meeting with Professor Ballard and his team just made me think - We are all attempting to understand what life is, what it is doing to us and what we are going to do about it… Artists take ourselves down one route and Scientists take another, but we are all on the same journey.  So, yes, on all these different levels the meeting was great.


Three Things That Have Really Stayed With Me…

Where does the person reside?
I am not a religious person but neither am I strictly an atheist. I have a kind of grey unclear muzzy set of half beliefs. Personal heresies no doubt, that I have constructed. A vague sense that while religion perpetrates much that is despicable in the world, it also holds up much that is beautiful. A belief that God does not exist but that the idea of God might be a reflection of the best parts of what human’s might be. I contradict myself all the time. I absolutely reject the concept that God could have created our world and yet carry a gut feeling that family members and friends who have died are somehow ‘still with me’. I often feel their presence. So clearly, I have a confused botch of compartmentalised thinking and feeling that I have found a way to make sense of… But the meeting with Prof B shook this up quite a lot.  As Prof B started showing us slides of brains affected by AD there was this thought in my head that was visceral and unnerving. I suppose I had to confront some of my contradictions. I just thought, if my person and personality is absolutely and totally contained within the tissue of the brain then that really is that. And an AD brain pretty much shows us that doesn’t it?  That we really are just the sum of the nerve endings and chemicals in our brain.  When Prof B said that he understands why it is comforting but it’s inaccurate to portray people with AD as if they are simply cocooned behind a symptom of confusions and that it is possible sometimes for the curtain of confusion to lift and for that person to be ‘revealed ‘again if only briefly (as so many drama’s dealing with AD do)– that hit me for six. Because I realised that that is how I have thought about the disease. In my mind I have imagined that the person with AD is still there, it’s just that the disease erases their ability to communicate their person hood anymore… So in that room with Prof B, suddenly I was confronted with the actuality that the disease is not a shroud on personality but a relentless attack on the essence of a sufferer’s person hood. When you see a brain utterly ravaged and laid bare by AD there seems little else to conclude. I found that chilling. But galvanising somehow. It made me feel that the work they are doing to try and understand AD is even more urgent somehow.  But on a personal level, it also made me think, all of that stuff I experience as ‘extra rational’ is just me.  All that contradiction.  All of that stuff that I separate out as intellect, soul and heart – its all the same.  It’s just my brain, working on a million different levels at the same time. It’s just my brain carrying around all of these different experiences of myself and the world and what I think and how I respond simultaneously. WOW BRAIN! That is incredible. I’m doing all of this stuff to myself. I’m creating that inexplicable, occasional presence of loved ones that I get. I’m doing that to myself! WOW WOW WOW…  And strangely, I’m OK with that. I don’t mind that it’s not real. I’m actually just pretty impressed with my brain. With all of our brains. What incredible creatures we are!  I wonder whether we will ever definitively know ‘exactly’ where the personality/soul/heart (or whatever word best describe the essence of us) actually resides? I wonder what we will gain and what we might lose when we get that understanding? 




The necessity of science to discover meaning by delineation – how storytelling does the same.
Listening to the scientists talk, I was intrigued by the way they create methods to hone in on the material they wish to understand.  The hypothesis and then the path that is created to develop an experiment that rules out unnecessary or contaminating /confusing data. Everything is done so that a particular question can be put under a spotlight and a truth can be seen. This has made me think about what happens when one writes a story. How you start off with a huge lump of material, but then to try and find a universal truth, in the end you strive to hone in on the particulars of a situation. You create a hypothesis. You say to yourself ‘what would happen to this character if they were put in this situation?’ And then you make what you have imagined happen to the character and the story is basically what you discover about that character. You basically do an experiment on your characters to find a story. And I really like how there is that mirroring between our two worlds.  I do however wonder though how far that kind of  ‘isolated, finding meaning in the particular’ type thinking can take humanity? I have been thinking lately about how the next step in human evolution (if we can get there) will be to find ways to create a rigorous yet holistic way of looking at the world. We are drawn to using one detail at a time to reflect / understand the world, but I wonder if that kind of thinking can only takes us so far? I wonder if there is a whole level of development that comes from finding ways to understand many things in a multiplicity of contexts?  The CIA talk about ‘blow back’, the idea that for every action that American foreign policy makers take, to right a situation, there will always be an event that occurs in direct response to the action that was not expected and which undermines the aims of the initial action. I wonder how much science and art is held back by ‘blow back’ and what would come from being able to see truths in their bigger picture, more clearly?

The increments of change / building a body of knowledge
When we were talking to the PhD students about their work, it really struck me how they very much see their work in context with the body of knowledge that other scientists have, are presently working on and will perhaps work on in the future. It was clear that they feel that they are contributing a tiny part of knowledge to a new understanding, which others will then be able to take on and develop. What that development is not their concern – they are immersed in their own tiny chunk of endeavour. But the knowledge and interest in other people’s work, being aware of the frontiers of understanding that are being pushed at all the time - I really got the feeling that this team of people, working in their different ways with their different expertise, are engaged in this way. And I found that very inspiring. I think sometimes the arts is a world where practising artists can be quite guilty of not being so interested in what has gone before and what is already known. Art historians of course are a different fish all together, but practising playwrights – how many of us (myself included) really know the lineage of our art. Or where its frontiers are? We are very focused on ‘what we are doing’ but too often I think we don’t see ourselves in the greater ecology of what the world of art is doing. I wonder how many times we reinvent the wheel because of that tendency? Perhaps it’s the nature of artists to be more inward looking? I’m not sure, but this has inspired me to double my efforts to read and see more… And also to take stock. We have to dream a better world in detail I think. We have to dream large and dream widely and bravely. But then we also have to kind of find away to accept that in our lifetime, we can only be part of an incremental tiptoe towards achieving the goal of that dream. One day, there will be a vaccine for AD. One day there will be more humanity in the way humans live. Our job is not to hold our breath, or to get frustrated that this day has not arrived, but to contribute a step in the journey that will get us all there. Which is frustrating if you’re an impatient person like myself, but there we are. 


These are the things that came to my mind during and after our meeting with the scientists.  

Yabba Dabba Doing Words / 11th July 2013: A Person Prone To Worry Tries To Find Total Peace of Mind But Discovers Something Else Instead

I was excited to be asked by Ben Webb to contribute to a night of new writing / experiments on the 11th July 2013 at Tara Arts in London. I read out the piece that follows below (alongside new work from Ben, David Marshall and Amelia Stubberfield). It was a good night...



My name is Emma Adams and I am a playwright from Bradford, West Yorkshire. Which is somewhere in the north. Which is somewhere that you'll probably never visit because there is a good deal to keep you occupied down here. I understand and I don't take it personally. So here I am.  A Playwright from the north. However, what I am going to share with you this evening has nothing to do with wool, urban decay, hill walking or rain. It's not even going to be a play. Instead what I've created is a kind of bundle of thoughts, loosely gathered under the title of: A Person Prone To Worry Tries To Find Total Peace of Mind But Discovers Something Else Instead. I suppose, this could be described as a reading. However I decided to end the whole shabang with a song, which means I have muddied those waters too.

The reason I’m explaining this to you is that I know, that knowing what is about to happen, is important. Most people like to be able to plan ahead with certainty, without the fear of getting a shock. And I don’t want anything to upset you. Or more precisely, I don't want to upset you before I get to the upsetting bit. Because there is a mildly upsetting bit coming. But it doesn't last long and it all concludes happily in the end. Especially now I've written the song... Anyway I think it's important you know what you're getting into before we begin, because shocks - along with the concept of a vengeful god/corruption/lack of money/nihilism/an inactive sex drive/a loss of equity in ones home/sex addiction/food addiction/single mums in general and working class mums in particular/the atom bomb and/or a failure to save for the future - all seem to be major reasons why so many people are failing to achieve total peace of mind in our day and age.

So now we are almost ready to begin. But before I start I'd also like to say thank you to Ben for asking me to write something for this evening's 'Yabba Dabba Doing Writing' event. I’m delighted to be here with you. That feels important. That we’re all here. I’m glad that we all made it. I’m feeling optimistic.  Though it has to be said, I am what's known as a bit of a worrier. Mainly I think because I'm hopeless at small talk and at pretending that the bad things that I notice happening in the world are not really happening. Sometimes this means I depress people by talking about climate change during nominally joyful social situations like, say, a wedding reception. I am trying to learn not to do this, but it does appear to be who I am .

So I am a worryer.  

That said, even by my standards its been a worry-tastic time of late. 2 weeks ago my Mum quite suddenly became very ill. She was hallucinating and it was awful. At one point my sister and I began to fear we were going to lose her. That’s a euphemism for fearing that she was going to die. I don’t even like writing it. I don’t want to think about that... Now of course she survived and is much better now, because if she hadn't I wouldn't be here obviously. Even so, my Mum is high in my mind at the moment. I feel uncertain about what the future holds for her and me and I hate that. 

So. What with my Mum, trying to write something for tonight and the state of the world in general - just about all of my time has been taken up with worry of late. And that's not good. 

Which is how I came to start thinking about actually, actively going out there and searching for 'total peace of mind'... I suddenly realised, I  could kill two birds with one stone. I could write about my adventure to find peace of mind and also benefit from the discoveries I made.

This is how I came to find myself googling the words 'Where do I find total peace of mind?'... 

The search brought up thousands of  links leading to page upon page of on the Internet. I didn't read them all. I took a representative sample. All promised a way to find total peace of mind. Or to be exact I found a gazillion businesses and religious types advertising ways to obtain total peace of mind. The businesses said they could sell it to me (be that Emirates Holidays or Peace of Mind Pet Care in Surrey). The God folk said (ignoring the small print that they disagree about incessantly) that I could get total peace of mind  but only after an age of prayer and living right. 

Neither of these options seemed acceptable to me. 

So then I thought - OK total peace of mind looks like it's going to be out of reach for me. I am not eligible to apply, being both cash strapped and also a filthy lesbian who god hates. Now I know I didn't mention that I'm a lesbian at the beginning and I apologise if that has come as a shock to any of you. But I looked in the mirror this morning and I thought, on balance, baring in mind that the Tara Arts crowd are almost certainly an arty set of urbane people with a sophisticated experience, would the idea of me being a lesbian really come as a shock to them? 



I decided that you would have guessed by now.

So anyway, since I am not able to buy TPOM as i like to call it and since I am not prepared to denounce my girlfriend and go seek a cure so that god might allow me into his popular club, I realised I was going to have to start thinking outside the box.... 

Which is when I thought, ' Hang on! What I need to do is write a list of everything I am certain of. If I'm not eligible for TPOM, perhaps I can build a 'Rational Peace of Mind', built up from what humans rationally know to be true. That seems reasonable. To this end I decided to take stock of everything that is certain in the world, with the intention of using the data collected to build a new sense of rational calm. 

This stock taking process didn't however go as well as hoped. Unfortunately, far from creating a rational peace of mind, the data collected turns out to be very unpromising material that could far from be something to aid a worry free existence in fact arm the need for more worry. Which I'm very sorry about. Even so, it's important that you know what I discovered:

The only real absolute, rational certainties that I could pin point were the following:

1) Everyone is going to die.

2) Almost every thing we had in place in this country that might have proven to be a foundation to build a rational peace of mind from, has, when you stop to think about it, been lost or stolen... 

We lost the battle for human rights. I know we were on the right side when it comes to ww2, but that was a generalisation ago. These days Britain is synonymous with words like Extraordinary rendition, GCHQ snooping, sexed up dossiers, repeated calls by our leaders to weaken the human rights act... the list goes on... 

We lost the battle for politics and now live in a post truth world. A post truth world! Such is the hypocrisy and corruption infused into our everyday lives that non of us believe anything anyone in authority says any more. And we're too exhausted to try and keep up with bringing all the powerful people to book. Which leaves them all free to keep on doing just what they like.

We lost the battle to save the NHS from privatisation. Most people haven’t noticed yet, but we did. 

Our schools are being privatised so that they can be run by venture capitalists for profit. Having said that, at least they all do now have a copy of the St James' bible with a fwd written by Michael Gove, on one of their soon to be sponsored by tesco book shelves. So I suppose we have something to be thankful for.

Our local government’s powers are being spayed in the name of greater localism but all that has been achieved is greater centralism. 

Higher education is now out of reach for everyone but the most privileged in this country. The Russell Group says its trying to find poor children to educate, but its awfully hard. Which leaves me thinking that if the likes of Oxbridge folk can't work out how to hit inclusion targets then one has to wonder who can. 

Putting clever poor children aside, who are deemed worthy of at least the elite's hot air; the poor are by and large now acknowledged to be the harbingers of their own downfall. Lazy people. Dishonest people. Feckless people. People who deserve what they get. 

And don’t get me started on the fucking disabled! The disabled are now well known to be malingers who asked for whatever the fuck it is that’s wrong with them. If there really is anything wrong with them, because we all now know that most disabled people are liars and scroungers. 

Though, I will give you this. The old are still respected. So that's something to build on isn't it? Yes. Always respected. Well not exactly respected all of the time. But at least on red poppy day and red nose day, old people are wheeled out and respected then. As are the deserving disabled come to think about it. The boys with all their limbs blown off. Because we know those ones, those type of disabled are not fucking with us and taking the piss don’t we? We can see that those kinds of disabled people are at least for real and are not stealing our alarm-clock-Britain-hard-won-cash. We know that these kind of disabled boys and sometimes girls but mostly boys, who have 4 limbs blown off or 3 limbs and half of their brains blown out. For us. All for us. Makes you proud. We know that they are really really for fucking real and so we can respect them on red nose and red poppy day along with the old ones. But for the rest of the time we will not remember them. We will forget them. We will actively go out of our way to forget them. Because it’s so depressing. We will forget them at the setting of the sun and in the morning. We will not design buildings that incorporate them easily. We will not provide adequate care or money or time. Don’t the charity Round-Table-Heros-For-Hope or whatever they're called, do that? Not sure. Anyway… Not sure. But it’s clear we’ve lost something there. I just can’t put my finger on it. But something important has been lost. 

The list goes on... When you do a stock take of things as they really are, enmass, it's clear we have lost so much that might mitigate life's harsh edges. 

And that's all quite depressing isn't it?

I'd go so far as to say that this discovery severely damages the concept that TPOM or indeed RPOM could ever be achieved. It's made me conclude that  the concept its self is not fit for purpose or a basket case or a total crock of shit. Depending on the terminology you prefer...

And in early drafts, that's where I was going to leave things.

But then I thought, that might feel a bit bleak.

And besides by then I had had a new thought...

Just as I was thinking that this reading / performance was going to end on a really miserable note, I noticed some things, which, while not certainties do all the same seem to hold some truth...

1) By and large, however shit and compromised we all are, we do all at least want to care. Even if we can't quite manage to find the time to care, most of us would like to if we had the time. Most of us. Somewhere inside our heads and hearts...

2) It struck me that we've found a way to make sense of being on a piece of rock that is smashing through space at stupid speeds towards the total unknown. 

As a species we have actually normalised this pretty impossible situation and that takes huge courage.  Further more, if you think about it, this ability suggests that as a species we have the capacity to make sense of the impossible and live on the results. We find patterns of regularity in the murkiest places. We find reason where little exists. We search for reason where it doesn't exist yet and make it up if we need to. In short we are beings that desire a happy ending even when logic says it can never be so. Indeed, sometimes, when we all agree to desire something together and we all want it very very much, we as a species have an shamanistic ability to actually create new realities. Most people want God to exist, so god does exist in our world.

Which is quite uplifting really isn't it? That we can create new realities out of just a heartfelt desire for the reality to exist. 

Now of course this ability has it's dangers! Of course it can lead to delusion / god fixations / believing a fast car makes you look cool / believing money is real etc. Even so! Think about the positives! This ability to conjure new realities from nothing, means we are genetically predisposed to being able to make anything possible on this planet. Imagine that! That means anything really is possible. So OK, we are never going to have total or indeed a rational peace of mind, because all of this doesn't add up to certainty. But it looks like we do have the raw material to begin exploring how life could be better if we embraced the idea of 'A Chaotic Peace Of Mind' or CPOM as I have named it.

The key seems to be being brave. If we can be brave we can have Chaotic Peace of Mind. We don't have to buy it or pray for it. Its ours already. Its in our genes. And millions of people have been quietly getting on with embracing CPOM as a way of life, all along. It's CPOM that allows people to be amazing. It's CPOM that allows every day people to do incredible everyday acts that create hope and further love. Its CPOM that allows everyday people, in the face of almost certain defeat to smile and say no to human rights violations, to say no to racism and sexism and vile inequities. These people say no to them. They write to their MP's. They take to the streets. They volunteer. They fund raise. They smash windows. They chain themselves to railings. They go on hunger strike. In the face of almost certain failure, with most of their friends and family not understanding why they do it, they do it anyway. And the wonderful thing is, that the laws of chaos means that sometimes their acts of love and hope add up to moments of change.

I realise that this is not as water tight a pitch as life insurance or the promise of heaven. But this is what we have. That's it. It's not a lot but its joyful in its way. Embrace the chaos. Often the world will crush our dreams but, because hope and love exists, we will keep on keeping on. And that means sometimes love and light must win.

So there we are. The point is that a life spent shoring up against all the things that could go wrong, in the end is a lifeless life. While a life spent living may have some chance of having a point. 

Or put another way, its time to stop worrying and sing.

So with that in mind I set myself the task of writing you a short uplifting song to end on.

Here it is. Its called the consolation song.



The Consolation Song

Clouded skies / still have stars
Hidden sparkles through the night.

Wasted time / tock ticked in vain 
Holds hidden value wound in tight

When all the frustration feels full to burst
When all of their harsh words reveal the worst
When you're holding on with a heart of hurt    

Blunted knives / Still thrill to blade
The job in hand is find a stone.  

Neglected hearts / will beat for life
If we could shout 'you're not alone'

When all the frustration feels full to burst
When all of their harsh words reveal the worst
When you're holding on with a heart of hurt

All you sex workers
Farm hands and surfers
squaddies and butchers
Be consoled.

The mental health workers
Grocers, sheep herders
the artists and brewers
be consoled

Feel consolation 
in the constellations
and genes to survive 
On this mad green earth.

We'll never be perfect 
But love makes us worth it
Face the fear and just live it
And be consoled