The validity of existence is just one of the many questions probed by Periscope Theatre in their new play Sufferance. Writer Meg Spencer identifies her inspiration for creating the work as a burning need to explore those universal questions affecting us all:
“A lot of what this boils down to is “Why the fuck are we all here? Why do we keep pretending we’re so important, when we’re so tiny and insignificant?” If only to delve into the questions, I knew that I had a story worth telling, and more over a story I felt compelled to tell. As broad as it is, this was really my jumping off point for the show.”
Spencer says Sufferance is the first piece she’s written with no form, no set, no story, no characters in mind. “Literally no plan or purpose,” she says. “The original draft, fully formed in my mind, fell out onto the page over a series of late nights and early mornings, a rare and beautiful feeling for a writer who spends so much of her time banging her head against the wall. On the page it is written in free form. It could have been a poem, a short story – even a diary entry. However, the more time I spent with the piece the more I found it pulling me back towards the stage.”
Much of the impetus for the show came from her own life, more specifically, a period in which she felt particularly absent. A time she describes as being a stranger in her own skin. “I think that’s a feeling everyone can relate to,” she posits. “The abyss we fall into when we loose someone or something we had assumed would be part of the rest of our lives.”
The piece focuses on Aurora, a woman undergoing a huge emotional journey after a miscarriage. She is drifting, disconnected with the familiar and is struggling with identity. Aurora is significant, not only as a figure of myth, but also a symbol of hope and renewal.
Spencer began to look into spirituality and ancient texts and eventually stumbled across Roman mythology and the goddess Aurora. “As Goddess of dawn, she renews herself every morning and flies across the sky to announce the arrival of the sun,” Spencer explains. “But what if she fell to earth and was born to a mortal family? What if she did a degree in creative writing and worked in the public sector, had an affair with a married man too old for her, developed an emotional pregnancy and then wandered the streets looking for a way back home. In the words of Alanis Morrisette ‘what if god was one of us?’ – thank you 90’s music.”
Spencer feels like quite a young playwright still and admits to not having a clear vision of her journey as a writer yet. Her last play, Glasshouse, performed a year ago, took a more traditional form and, says Spencer, she just tries to write with fluidity and intuition to avoid any self-consciousness.
“I don’t strive for a specific ‘voice’ across works – just the thrill of making something from nothing is what ties it all together,” she says. “I’m slowly becoming less afraid to shy away from the experiences in my own life. The world always throws impetus for creation in my path.”
“I do tend to focus on a young female character as the protagonist. She often sits between strong independence and a child-like quality, the latter usually enforced upon her by the male characters dominating her life. I think women are often expected and encouraged to stay young, unknowing and carry a sense of innocence. This requires a female to remain dependent and therefore less powerful, often subservient.”
“As a young, petite woman I often find myself fighting to be taken seriously, to break away from being seen as a child or a little girl. I’m fascinated by the transition between child and adult, especially as a female.”
The play is being performed at the Meat Markets new venue, The Stables, which was deliberately chosen by the group because they were in search of an alternative space. “It’s a refurbished car garage, built in the 20’s and only re-opened as a space for artists in December last year,” explains Spencer. “We’ll be the first live performance to tread it’s ‘concrete.’ We were looking for a cavernous, warehouse feel and The Stable’s is exactly that. Sufferance exits in a very specific world and the audience needs to be engulfed in that, something we could only achieve in an alternative space. We’ve been able to take The Stables and make it our own, give it it’s own atmosphere and personality so the story becomes more of a theatrical experience as opposed to a play.”
The work tackles some tough issues but also hopes to engage an audience on the human level by posing challenges that we, as human beings, face at some time in our lives. Loneliness is one of this issues and, says Meg, I hope people in the audience simply feel less alone after viewing the piece. “It can often seem like life is a series of hardships and loss thrown specifically in our individual directions. But life is about riding the wave. Working with the ebb and flow. And it’s not meant to be easy,” she says. “I want an audience’s passion for theatre and art to be re-invigorated. We are all born creators, we just grow up and become scared to think bigger and crazier, to be wrong or silly or even to embrace fun. I hope people are inspired to talk about experiences where they felt alone, or lost, or insignificant, or purposeless. I think it’s only naturally to go through these periods of life, but we tend to run away from uncomfortable sensations, instead of embracing the painful moments and growing because of them.”
May 26 – June 4