After two weeks in the basement at CPT, On the Run reflect on their R&D
An hour before our scratch performance at Starting Blocks in March, I was a mess: under-rehearsed and petrified.
It was fine, of course. It always is. And having spent three months developing Tell Me Anything (then called Kate) as part of Starting Blocks, I’d stumbled through 20 minutes of new material, got some laughs and confirmed that it hadn’t all been a total waste of time.
My partner Hannah and I left the project to simmer, while we toured our other show for a few months and came back to work on Tell Me Anything this summer. It’s an autobiographical show about my experiences of looking after my girlfriend, who was anorexic and bulimic, when we were fifteen.
Our two weeks in the basement at CPT have been productive. Our last show had a lot of paraphernalia (cardboard signs, silly costumes) but this one is an ‘empty space’ show: just me, no props or set or costume. At times, it’s been daunting to try to carry a show single-handedly and it was rather a relief when we started working with Lilly Neubauer, a musician who now plays onstage with me. She’s offered the work and my performance real support and Hannah has even persuaded me to include a song in the show. (This will be the first time I have sung in public since I was twelve. We will see if the audience have their fingers in their ears by the end.)
It’s also been a revelation to have Charlotte Rhind in rehearsal this week. Charlotte has just finished her PhD research into eating disorders and has a wealth of knowledge to draw upon, as well as an ability to explain concepts simply and in very human terms. Some of the traits and behaviour I saw in my girlfriend were incomprehensibly irrational to me at the time but Charlotte will usually smile and tell me they are textbook, before explaining the ‘eating disorder’ logic behind them. This has allowed us to explain to the audience what is going on for ‘Kate’ and help them to see what I was trying to help her through.
We’ve spent much of the week discussing the presentation of Kate’s parents in the show. It’s a sensitive subject because parents often feel that having a daughter with an eating disorder is a sign that they have been bad parents, which is usually not the case at all. However, I appealed directly to Kate’s parents for help on several occasions and was cold-shouldered. My fifteen year old self is still pretty angry about that, so we’re trying to show that anger whilst also wondering why they might have behaved like that.
It’s possible that ignoring the problem was a coping mechanism for them, just as eating disorders were a coping mechanism for Kate.
We’re sharing all this material with audiences for the first time at Shoreditch Town Hall on Thursday 10 September (7.30pm) and Friday 11 September (4pm). Book ahead here. We’d love to hear your feedback!
Development of Tell Me Anything is supported by Camden People’s Theatre, Shoreditch Town Hall, The North Wall and Arts Council, England.