For our latest blog, Rhiannon Brace gives us an insight into the inspiration for the show The Promised Land.
I’ve never been able to afford therapy but I’ve always had this all-consuming drive to put images together on a stage. My early work was abstract and focused on atmosphere and the moving body, but this has developed into the telling of stories and the poignancy of words, as well as images.
I wasn’t always aware that I was creating a performance to serve a deep-seated need to filter personal experiences but that has become more obvious as my work has turned to directly biographical material.
I wrote the proposal for my show Baby a couple of days after leaving the hospital after the difficult birth of my son. A few days later I had to return to the hospital because of complications and I remember asking my partner to drive me home so that I could press submit on an online proposal before going to the hospital.
Last year something very unexpected happened – I fell back in love with being on stage. It happened because the idea for Mr. President sat with me for so long that I always imagined myself playing the title role. The experience of dancing as a gender-fluid Donald Trump at CPT, then BAC, meant there was no going back to a behind-the-scenes creator role.
I always knew I had enough material in my childhood for a book or two but the idea of making a show about my religious upbringing felt particularly daunting because it wasn’t something that I had spoken about to many people. When I began to write I was surprised how the stories poured out of me and that some of them had humour! I wasn’t expecting the voice that came through in my writing.
The things that are the most difficult to talk about are not the stories of school and of being different, because actually, it made me self-assured and independent to always be the weird cult kid at school, but what for me is harder to accept are the experiences I missed out on and dreams that were not realised because of our beliefs. One of those aspirations forms a central part of the story in The Promised Land. I don’t think I really understood how much it still hurts until the day I was learning my lines on a train and tears began rolling down my cheeks.
The book of Revelation, devil possession and end time are probably not the healthiest of preoccupations for a child and being one of God’s chosen people didn’t make me feel particularly special either. It always seemed like the followers of Satan were having far more fun (and they were!). Sometimes now I look at my son and wonder how it feels to be a child on a birthday or at Christmas. I don’t remember experiencing joy quite like that.
Since writing my show I have started talking more about my experience of religion to anyone who will listen. I have even started using it as an excuse for a bad memory, ‘sorry I don’t remember that song/film/band/tv programme but then I was in a cult until I was 15!’