Emma Berentsen and Tiffany Murphy write letters to each other reflecting on their personal and artistic journeys to creating Anne Meets Jeffrey.
Anne Meets Jeffrey arrives at CPT on Dec 13-14 at 9pm, get your tickets here.
London, 5 December 2017
Hi Tiffany –
I guess this is the first public letter I have ever written to you – but well, I guess it’s a nice chance to inform our possible audience a bit about our new work / performance / show. ( I don’t think ‘show’ is actually a good word at all for what we are making). I have been trying, after today’s rehearsal, to think of a way how to explain what we have been making – however it’s hard. As it’s part performance, part documentary, part real live research, part of us just sharing our process and finding ways to tell people about what has happened but also a way for us to dig into the story.
I don’t know if I have ever told you this – but for a few years in a row I have been treating myself on the day of the attack with a ‘day off’ or a ‘beauty day’ or anything that would make me feel good. This year it might be not the case – as we will be rehearsing and there is so much else I need to do. In 2 days it is the 7th of December 2017, which is exactly 10 years after the attack. It made me sad to realise that even after 10 years there is still such a big scar I am carrying around. Anne meets Jeffrey was obviously never born if I have never been raped that night but maybe even more Anne meets Jeffrey would have never been made if I did not meet him again three years ago. And maybe even more, the way the performance is now made would have never been there without you – as without the ‘outsider’ eyes you have been given the story it also developed into a different story.
In the performance I read out loud this rape definition Rebecca Campbell has written in her book about researching rape and I realised today when I played the Dutch Google Translate version that although my opinion might have shifted a bit regarding if this is THE definition I do think she made a very touching definition that goes beyond the law-book-definition.
I am drifting off
I think what I wanted to show a bit in this letter is that I am super scared and also super proud of us of this work and I know it’s far from ready or perfect or even maybe it’s an unfinished piece, I do think we have made it almost an experiment, both on stage and for ourselves.
Do you think the work is triggering by the way? I just realised we might have people in the audience who have had similar experiences and it might be hard for them? Or also even for our friends and family? I guess we have triggers, we talk about rape, we talk about the impact, I take my perpetrator’s words in my mouth and well – It might be a lot. But well, we do have our sweet pink horses, and the horse video. I guess they make a lot good. And if people are triggered, they can always come and talk to us right?
What are your thoughts after today about all? I’d be very happy to hear from you and see you soon.
P.s I also found this organisation Rape Crisis England: https://rapecrisis.org.uk/ people can always contact if they feel like.
Train from London to Canterbury, 8th December 2017.
Thank you for the letter. I want to thank you as well for everything you have told me throughout the process of making this performance. It is a strange thing I suppose, that something so horrible has given me in some ways joy (and a lot of anger and sadness) but joy in that it has meant so much to have gotten to know so much more about you and your story, and of my being a part of it. In a way, together we have played a part of re-writing the story as our process and this performance is now a part of it. Not that the pain is not still there, as of course it will be for a long time and you do not have to feel bad that after ten years it still affects you, as you mentioned to me the other day. But we have taken that pain and transformed it into something that I hope has helped you and will help others who see ‘Anne Meets Jeffrey’. I can’t imagine the bravery it has taken you to do this, and I suppose what I am trying to say is that I feel happy that at least I could share the burden of the pain for a little while and support you.
Our process of endless discussions about rape and the parameters of abuse has particularly affected me (as you know too well) in their enlightening me about situations of my past which at the time I did not realise were ‘not okay’. I don’t know if it is this process alone, also my getting older and understanding boundaries more and educating myself about that, but at the very least this process has allowed me to confide in someone about this, so I also thank you for that.
I am proud of us. No it is not ‘ready’ yet, of course more time and more outside help and even a test run or two in front of an audience would have been profoundly helpful. But this is it, and it is ours and if it touches one person in the audience who may have suffered sexual assault or has supported someone who has, then I think we did well. It has not been an easy show to make, especially when comparing it to other work I have been doing of late. But I believe ‘Anne Meets Jeffrey’ is an important piece, and the challenge has been a significant part of this journey. What I do like about the performance is our rejection of dramatising issues too much, and instead we try to show something quite bare and honest. It is not only a performance about one particular instance of rape, but it is a performance about us making a performance about rape. It is about you starting this journey on your own and inviting me to share it with you. It is about the compromises and tensions that arise as a consequence of our sharing your story and the gradual fusion of two combined perspectives. That is the beauty of collaboration though right? As Jonathan Burrows wrote in The Choreographer’s Handbook (which got us both through Goldsmiths) ‘In the gap between what you each agree with, and disagree with, is a place where you might discover something new. It will most likely be something you recognise when you see it, but didn’t know that you knew. This is the reason to collaborate’.
With regards to whether the performance is ‘triggering’ I would say we will have to expect people to be triggered to an extent. It is not an easy subject, and I think that we have been so ‘in’ the work for such a long time we are somewhat immune to the effect of it. I say somewhat because some of Jeffrey’s words still utterly frustrate me as you know i.e.: ‘You mean you think I did it to look more macho?’ … !! But it is important to remember that it is not our intention to shock and disturb people. We are not acting as provocateurs here. Instead I guess we believe that this story needs to be told, and upon hearing it we hope that others feel like they can talk to us and others about their experiences as well. I hope we can create a safe space where even if people are triggered, they feel okay to talk about it.
Okay I think I have gone on for a while now, so it is time to wrap it up. We have both lost our minds (and a lot of sleep) in the making of this, so let’s just enjoy it! No doubt we will be quite lost when it is done.