Guest Blog: Daughters of the Sun: Unpredictability, Illness and Theatre

In this blog post, one of the creators of Daughters of the Sun contemplates what role they occupy in the process, how much control is enough, and how much is too much.

Daughters of the Sun arrives at CPT on November 13 – 17 at 7:15pm. Click here to find out more.

This blog post sounds best as it was written, to the sound of Rata Negra’s belting new record Justicia Cósmica (https://rata-negra.bandcamp.com/album/justicia-c-smica).

There’s a terrifying scene in Paulette Douglas’s fun documentary The TEAM Makes a Play, recounting the creation of The TEAM’s show Mission Drift. Whilst the company are (I think) in Las Vegas, director Rachel Chavkin has had to go to the emergency room because a water glass shatters in her hand mid-rehearsal and cuts it to shreds. The incident itself is not in the movie, but we do see rehearsals from that afternoon, to which Rachel has returned, hand in bandages. A fellow company member – with a mixture of tiredness, incredulity and admiration in their eye – remarks that it was made very clear that this injury would not prevent Mission Drift‘s progress.

I thought about this on Sunday as I sat in A&E, waiting to see a doctor who had raised the hospital alarm that I might have a tropical disease before reassuring me that I only had pneumonia (hooray for pneumonia!). I am three weeks away from premiering Daughters of the Sun –a show that I am making with a group of phenomenal artists for a premiere run at Camden People’s Theatre between November 13th-17th– and I was already planning how quickly I could return back to work. We aren’t doing any full-time rehearsals (how 2000s of you) so there wasn’t a room of people drinking tea and waiting for me to return (as if this has ever happened), but time is ticking and Tuesday November 13thlooks ever closer. But, simultaneously, I did want to actually rest and get better – after all, it is pneumonia. I punished myself briefly for not being more Rachel Chavkin. 

I considered whether we needed to cancel the show’s premiere. Now this WOULD be an interesting decision. Daughters of the Sun is a show comprised of thirteen tracks – fictional and non-fictional, dialogical and direct address, some musical some spoken, all set in the space we currently know as Camden People’s Theatre in its past, present & future – each of which belongs to one or more of four different strands. One strand is the fictional story of a nameless woman who wants to cancel their premiere, much to the chagrin of their collaborators. This woman doesn’t have pneumonia; her reasons are complex and seasoned with a lot of fear. Now, fair enough, I do have pneumonia but the decision to cancel would still be seasoned with a lot of fear.

Because there’s no reason to cancel. There is a rehearsal schedule and there is more than enough time to make Daughters of the Sun. The shorter process requires giving responsbility to Beth Higham-Edwards and Rebecca Brewer (the show’s two performers) – there won’t be time for me (or anybody else) to micro-manage anything. This is, in fact, written into the playtext’s introduction, which states: 

Every part of the text that follows is negotiable for the women who perform it. 

They should be allowed to change it in rehearsal to suit their best ideas and experiences. 

They should be encouraged to find the pockets of space where they can improvise or update in the moment of performance.

The shorter rehearsal process, dictated to some degree by illness, to some degree by financial necessity, forces us to embrace this as some sort of motto. There will inevitably be pockets of space for the performers, there will be unpredictability inscribed into the very fabric of the show. I am mostly interested in gifting a loose structure to exceptional performers and watching them play – genuinely play – with each other, to support each other to make something unique, scrappy, temporary and (by virtue of the previous three characteristics) interesting happen in a theatre space, witnessed by an audience. You don’t buy a ticket to the same thing that happened last night, you buy a ticket to the potential of what might happen tonight.

Oh, I can guarantee one thing though. 

There will be some banging songs played live. 

Absolute. Bangers.

Including Ariana. 

Seeya there, yeah? 

I’ll be the one with the beard, coughing out my left lung at the back.