Milk Presents are currently a developing a new project BULLISH, the recipient of CPT’s first HomeRun commission. The award will see the company supported with a cash commission and free rehearsal space, as well as artistic, fundraising, marketing and business planning support, to develop the work-in-progress to a three-week run of a fully realised production in Autumn 2017. This scheme is funded by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation.
Griffyn Gilligan is working with Milk Presents on Bullish. Find out more about the first R&D below.
A breath of new air. Familiar, yet fresh.
Fish and chips. Pinging and clinking of arcade machinery.
A breakfast table. Shifting desires and secrets around the same chorus: “Eggs? Bacon? Sausage?” “I’m not hungry.” “Listen to your mother!”
Damp, glistening stone walls. Salt grime between fingers. A fort, a prison, a teenage bedroom. Echos of ancient songs just audible on the fringe of the ebb and roar of waves.
I enter the bright rehearsal room Monday morning wondering what terrain I’m exploring this week. Probably we all are. But everyone else has been working on this project; I’m the new one. Everyone is friendly and excited, properly, genuinely excited. In their voices, in the sparks in their eyes. I realise that I don’t know how often I see that. We chat, we warm up, we begin.
What I know about the project is this: we’re looking at gender, at the decision to change our bodies because of our feelings about gender. Or not. And we’re looking at the myth of the Minotaur.
Leo/Lucy comes up to me during a break. They ask if I feel like the comparison between Minotaur and human is too binary. We all think about this all week. Is “to transition or not to transition” too binary? Do we even want to present “past” vs “present” vs “future” selves? What is “too linear”?
This is an immense journey we’re talking about. One of research, coming out, fighting through the NHS, reconstructing our relationships with our bodies, coming out again and again and again, or not… It is long and tiring. But the joy and pain and hope and confusion and relief ebbs and flows the whole time, always. And we are never, ever just “men” or “women”. There isn’t really a “before” or “after”.
Earth. Fire. Water. Wind.
At home. Becoming invisible. Hiding, escape. A dangerous flight.
David has been the the corner most of the day. As music director/sound designer, he has been listening to us, mixing, and composing in turns. Now, in a darker, shorter room, he guides us deftly from warmup, into harmonies, then into holding dissonant chords. Before I know it, he’s testing out melodies, drones, rhythms. Asking for descriptions of what an element is like, what it might feel like in the show. He translates even the most abstract answers into a nuanced underscore, and we’re off. Humming, belting, riffing off of one another, testing out sea shanty lines and pirate voices and primal wails.
I mention to someone that I’ve been in three R&D rooms in six months working with an old text and explicit questions around gender and trans experiences. And they’ve all had singing running through their core.
I love it. At some point, the questions and frustrations sound the same and the definitions are so ambiguous and there aren’t enough words and articulation becomes sticky, bogs us down. Whether we’re breathing in rhythms or improvising a full on musical number, there is so much space to ask and probe and jostle, to share and laugh and surprise. And to let the music carry some of the weight for us, for a little while.
By the end of the week, it’s clear: we’re here because the words aren’t enough. Because the conversation the world is having isn’t enough. Because we need to have it in different ways; we need to find and layer new languages. And now I know why everyone was so excited on the first day. Because, in BULLISH, we’re getting to do just that.