The Disappearance of Sadie Jones is a play. Written on page. By me….
But now that we’ve gone through our development, rehearsal and production process, it has become a performance written in a space, with a creative team, and with you.
When my writing is occasionally published on a page it empties. As if the words have been stolen, type set, set in stone, an elegy, lost and concrete at the same time.
When I receive a book I have poems in, it sits for weeks before I can bear to look up my work. When I eventually bring myself to do it, I skim them really quickly and never return to them after that.
I hate the finality. I suppose that the act of reading brings them alive again. I suppose when someone reads them they can live. But I don’t believe mine do, because I write for voice and space and people. Words can’t move when they’re trapped on a page.
Perhaps having a play published is slightly different, as the reader knows it is really just the blue print. I’d like to be able to give my plays to other people to play with. But still, the play text becomes final. A final word, I don’t want to have a final word on anything.
In conversation, in performance, we constantly adjust, to other performers, to space, to audience, even when it’s a quiet one. We adjust our bodies, faces, voices, intonation…it’s a constant search for communication. Even when the audience isn’t asked to respond verbally, it’s never a one sided conversation.
During the last few performances of The Disappearance of Sadie Jones at the Bike Shed Theatre, and during discussions afterwards, I felt the work being taken by an audience, taken into their imagination, their bodies…and what they translated was often more beautiful than anything we worked out the play was about.
The work is given a new life by the viewer, it is born, something of it is taken away and it might transform, and grow and become something else. A performance is a gift that is given in different shaped pieces to anyone who wants to take it home with them.
The audience member is an artist (yup, I’ve no problem with that word), the audience member is the most interesting artist at this stage in the process, because they are new, they are questioning, taking in, helping a birth, assembling and assimilating the work within themselves. The audience brings the final stage of the creative process to the work. In the end they are the best dramaturgs. Audience members help us to see the work fresh, to see it from many perspectives, to witness that it is continuing to be written, every night. The writing is never finished.
Stephanie Greer playing Sadie Jones. Photos by Eileen and Chris Long