The play is over and the actor/playwright is sitting on a high stool inside a rectangle three sides of which have two rows of chairs facing the centre. There are twenty-four seats and a little over half of them are occupied. Before the play started he asked to audience to stay for a five minutes (or so) to five him feedback on the play. This is the third and last run through before he performs it at the Edinburgh Fringe in six days time. He asks us three questions in quick succession to give the audience an idea of the feedback he is looking for. I hear the questions but don’t have time to either process or retain them. To be honest I was expecting to say anything anyway, it is not something I find easy at the best of times but in an open group like these without any foundation of trust, it was probably never going to happen. That’s not to say I don’t have feedback to give, it is just unlikely that I will voice it. But let’s be honest again, my feedback is going take time to formulate and coalesce.
I listen to people’s thoughts and the discussions that ensue. It doesn’t take long I suppose. What would I say, I wonder. I stare at the floor of the stage between two chairs. What strikes me about the play? It was very auditory based, a person recollecting his memories of the place he grew up in and the talks he more recently had with others to get back in touch with the political situation. They used no props and moved little around the stage. There was no lighting effects or video. Audio recordings were played back at times and I couldn’t really follow the recorded conversation due to the recorded quality, the heavy accents and the large amount of reverberation of the room. People have mentioned this and I wonder if the words with pictures could be project up somewhere so there are multiple sources of information. In general there was a lot of background information that I had to let go. I wonder if the lines could be paired back. What was the purpose of the certain stories and how much was needed to convey the point the playwright wanted to get across. He mentioned a newspaper headline which was written in large black letters, were the size and colour of the letters important?
There are multiple conversations going on around and I close my eyes to concentrate. Later I am asked if I had a good sleep to which I replied that I was processing which seems to be taken as a euphemism for sleep since it is mentioned again later by another person. The conversations are increasing in volume and now people are getting up and shouting at each other, at least it feels that way. I can tell I am finding this all too distressing. I head out the hall without speaking to anybody. I just need clear space to think. It is rainy, windy and cold outside. I am wearing thin jeans a loose shirt and a pair of sandals. The cool wind brings me out of my head and reconnected with the world around me. I enjoy the cold sensation that blows through my shirt and around my torso. I feel calmer now, able to try reconnecting with the play. There were four interviews. What were they again? What point did each make?
The people I got a lift from come outside. My driver explains that she didn’t mention that they were going back to another friend’s house after the play but I remember the discussion from our last writer’s group and told her I knew anyway. It was that conversation that is the reason I am probably here. I knew I would be on my own at home and felt that doing something social would be good for me by Saturday night. There are six of us now and there is some discussion about who should go in what car so that we all end up back at the same place. We drive in convoy so that discussion seemed rather pointless to me. Perhaps it served another purpose.
The six of us are seated around a low table. There are cheeses and biscuits, slices of strawberries and apples, and crisps. I do not hold back on the cheese but then somebody else is also a big fan. I sip beer in a conical glass I top up from a large bottle. I try to start a conversation with the person next to me but I suspect my voice is too quiet and do not get a response. With this number of people a single conversation is held and I occasion chip in something. Then another three people arrive. This tips the balance for a single conversation into multiple conversations. There are four conversations in total and I am not in any of them. I call someone’s name to get their attention and ask a question pertinent question but although he looks at me, the conversation he is already having continues and my interruption forgotten. Well, I tried. I content myself with eating. Someone asks me a question from across the table, I have trouble understanding the words above the other voices but I seem to answer appropriately.
The person to my left asks me how I am connected to this group and I explain that is through the writers’ group. She starts telling me about a group where people take 10 minutes sections of their play to be read through by volunteers. I explain that I am not that kind of writer. I write a blog. What kind of things do I write about? Well myself mostly. I find myself explaining how I became aware of my depression when my kids left home. How my GP asked what I want out of going on anti-depressants and that my answer was to be more creative. I chose to write but in a form that put myself out into the world. A blog in other words. Through my self-examination I worked out I was autistic and so went back to my GP to get a formal diagnosis. After a year or so of examining my autism, I told her I felt it was necessary to look outside myself. I then talked about the ways I had done that. I told her about my current writing project and gave an example of recognising family cultures as a subject I had written. By talking about my family, I manage to move the subject onto her family and culture. I am the one now asking the questions. It’s so much easier that way once you know something about someone.