Guest Blog: Creating a breathing background by Carly McCann

In this blog post, Carly McCann talks about their favorite moments working as the movement director and choreographer for For A Black Girl. Don’t miss For A Black Girl on Thursday March 15 at 9pm as part of Sprint 2018.

Get your tickets here.

It might make you sigh, it might make you sweat, it might clutter your script, but blocking makes me whip out my colour-coordinated highlighters and pens and jump for joy! That’s right, blocking a show really gets my blood pumping. I’m doing a little squeal now just thinking about it.

In theatre, blocking is often defined as simply: organising the details of a performer’s moves onstage. It’s the choreography of each performer – who moves where and when –  so that everyone and everything can work together smoothly.

But blocking for For A Black Girl took on a different form when our team discovered a new voice: a movement ensemble comprised of four kick-ass women.

My name is Carly McCann, and I am the movement director and choreographer for For A Black Girl, a new play written by and starring the incomparable Nicole Acquah. The play is a part-autobiographical, part-verbatim piece that tackles racism and sexism in the UK.

A black woman (Acquah) and a white man (PJ Stanley) form a power duo and remain at the centre of the action for nearly the entire piece. But where do those killer queen movement gals come in? Well let me tell you…

The movement ensemble members provide context for Acquah’s character’s experiences, thoughts and aspirations. They are her unspoken emotions and desires. They are scattered fragments of her frontal lobe in disguise, and their choreography shows it.

They react to everything that Acquah experiences. Sometimes with very subtle gestures, sometimes in grandiose dancing. They connect with her experiences to the core and express them in ways words can’t. They represent the scarred and imperfect parts of ourselves that we are too afraid to show. They represent those of us who stand up to injustice, and those who turn away from it.

To keep these themes and the movement ensemble flowing through the piece effectively, I focused on highlighting the level of connection between the movement ensemble members amongst themselves and with Acquah. While the movement ensemble share a common goal, they spend a substantial amount of time separated on stage. It is in these times where they struggle personally, remain quiet or do not offer to help one another. In this way, they mirror women today who feel they must take on the world alone. They feel unable to connect with others and share their stories of pain out of fear, shame, or maybe just because they can’t bring themselves to dredge up those stinging memories.

These moments are the ones I worry are becoming all too present today. While there are so many outlets for communication, we often leave the “best” of ourselves online only to grapple with our true, vulnerable selves on our own in the real world. We should feel free and confident to share our hardships in life with our sisters and brothers, not let them boil up inside of us until it’s too late.

When the movement ensemble does come together, in sharing their burdens and mutual fears they become stronger and create a powerful support force for Acquah. Together, they give just a small peek into what the female experience is like when we give love and recognition to one another. During these scenes, my heart gives blocking a run for its money.