AMA BOLTON WRITES : The response to our first meetup of the year has been tremendous, as you will see from the excerpts below. Graeme has given many of us new performance skills and a new confidence, both of which I’m sure will feed into our future meetings. He has also set a very high standard of curation; a hard act, as they say, to follow! Nor will it be easy to follow Sue’s exemplary writing. But we shall do our best.
Huge thanks to Graeme for his inspired and inspiring direction of two thrilling, deeply moving and unforgettable performances. I too wished I could have experienced them from both sides of the imaginary line between actors and audience.
Thanks also to Sue Sims and her team of volunteers, who made sure that the curators did not need to worry about any housekeeping matters.
FROM MARILYN FRANCIS
What a privilege it was to learn something of the nuts and bolts of putting a performance together, and to work with a group of people, who didn’t know each other particularly well, to produce and perform a viable piece of voice drama. And last of all to rehearse and participate in a real live performance with an actual audience. All in all, it was a most moving, thought-provoking and, ultimately, uplifting experience. I don’t know when I enjoyed a Bath Writers and Artists meet-up more. And, once again, thank you, Graeme, for all the work you put into making the day so special.
FROM VERONA BASS
Many many thanks, Graeme, for the interesting theme and the way you held it all together. You never faltered in your support, and full attention. I admire the way you got us going straight away and then extracted all that we could bring to it in such a short space of time.
The resonances across places, times and cultures.
The poignancy of words that say it how it is.
The impact of voices chanting in unison and repeating a refrain:
‘ Fair these broad meads – these hoary woods are grand; But we are exiles from our father’s land. ‘
The dignity of dramatisation.
The chance to empathise.
Fulfilling the task: ‘Remember that this has been’ (Primo Levi)
The final phrase:
‘To be human / is to be cast out of Paradise/ not once but time and again’
FROM SUE BOYLE
Graeme Ryan’s superb design and curation of this Meetup Day took Bath Writers & Artists to wonderfully enriching and stimulating new places which we could never have reached without his meticulous planning and professional experience. My abiding thought is IF ONLY the morning had been twice as long so that we could have delved more deeply into the possibilities for creating new work in small collaborative groups. In particular, I would have loved to experiment a little more – design a first collaboration, try it out, take it back for a rethink to the drawing board, try it out again. Something similar applies for me to the afternoon work on Report from the Judenplatz. The participants worked so well under Graeme’s direction, and with such focus and dedication, that it would have been marvellous to have had time for reflection and feedback and then perhaps to explore the possibilities offered by attempting a second presentation of the play. I can only record these IF ONLYS because the whole Day was such an absorbing and spell-binding experience to share, and seemed to open so many enticing doors to future possibilities for everyone in our group.
FROM EILEEN CAMERON
After the sadness of the night before, Saturday’s workshop exploration of Exile and Remembering was very appropriate. My only regret was that, as well as taking part in the afternoon performance of Sue’s Voices from the Judenplatz, I would have liked, at the same time, to have been watching it as a member of the audience. Despite the sombre nature of the material being explored, the workshops were fun and enlightening in unexpected ways. Thank you Graeme for conducting the workshops so brilliantly. It must have been exhausting. Thank you Sue for giving us Voices from the Judenplatz to work with and thank you Ama for all of your unseen work behind the scenes. I was also very impressed by those still able to sway, bend, wave arms, kneel etc. over and over again.
FROM JANET SNOWDON
I found Saturday exhilarating, innovative and inspiring. We came together as a disparate group of people with bits and bobs of writing developing into an inclusive whole that brought everyone together. The morning’s activities were a preparation, as well as a performance in their own right for a production I would have thought impossible to create in such a short time. It also brought the group together enabling a shared creativity that catalysed us into something moving uniting us as a group. So many thanks to Graeme and Ama and Sue for an inspiring day.
From a Subscriber
It was interesting to see the interpretation as a semi-staged script-in-hand. I was very familiar with the poems on the page, and I wasn’t sure whether a staged interpretation would give me something more, or different. For me personally, I still prefer to read the poems on the page and ‘make my own pictures’ in my head. This is NOT a criticism of the performance, which was amazing! – this is just my personal preference for how I respond to Sue’s words. Also recognising that Sue’s words are so precisely calibrated and under-stated, they produce those ‘pictures in the head’ with such power and impact. Incredible that the group was able to produce something so coherent and confident as a performed piece in two hours.
I thought the interpretation kept almost always to the right side of ‘show not tell’. The use of multiple voices was the most successful element, for me. The slide images were expressive, wordlessly, in a far more powerful way than the stage movement by speakers which, at times, I found too ‘busy’. Also it would have been better for the audience to have been facing the slides with the performers in front of the screen (but I appreciate that then the performers wouldn’t see the slides).
On the technical side, when I arrived the group was still workshopping and
rehearsing, and I was really interested in watching and hearing how Graeme directs. Well done to everyone!
From a Subscriber
My most searing moment of the day – of a day of many deeply felt searing moments – was when we were asked by Graeme to pack suitcases for our family. And Ann wailed ‘But we must take Fido! I want Fido!’ And I was instantly her anguished mother, with a far far deeper understanding of the experience of those persecuted than reading words on a page could ever achieve. Which depth of feeling was brought to the surface in the morning, thanks to Graeme’s creativity and direction, and maintained throughout the afternoon in the privilege of performing the monumental Report from the Judenplatz. Thank you, Graeme, Ama, Sue, for an extraordinary day.
From a Welcome Guest
It’s important to me to express my profound gratitude to you for providing the inclusive and safe space for me to participate in our collective expression and response to harrowing memoirs and accounts from times that need to be remembered, but are sometimes too painful to do so. I have long known that I couldn’t bear to go to Auschwitz to see the reality of the holocaust – the thought, the concept, of this blind cruelty is more than enough pain for me to bear. And yet I wonder if this denies or diminishes in some way the personal experiences of those who suffered such atrocities? I am wondering, now, if I had avoided exposing myself to such emotional vulnerability because I felt that I couldn’t do anything, personally, about it?I couldn’t make it better. I couldn’t heal anything. This was so much bigger than anything, anything, in my own experience. And I don’t even know if it touched any members of my extended family – so far removed am I. And that leaves me feeling awful. A bystander to historic events and questioning my awareness and engagement in the palpable concerns that this could, is, has, is now, in other countries, in our own, within families, communities, cultures happening even now, again and again and again with no learning. And for me, Sue, as an afternoon ‘supporter’, when you suggested I might be able to take part in the performance I realised that perhaps the time had come to face discomfort. You gave me the opportunity to do so. I hope in some small way I was able to express the artistry of the author’s word adequately. Thank you, Sue, for that opportunity.
From a Subscriber
What a wonderful day we had yesterday. Under Graeme’s tutelage we were able to achieve far more in a short time that I would have dreamt possible. The material we were working with was moving and harrowing at times, yet we all worked so well together in a totally uninhibited way. On a personal level, I learnt so much from Graeme about how to dramatise a text and bring it to life.
From a Welcome Guest
I would like to say I found the get together unusual, but interesting, not as I had imagined. Feeling a little like a fish out of water, I found, now coming away from the group with time to reflect on the day, I was compelled to use the imagery to sketch out my feelings. These being reminiscent of what had transpired during those harrowing times. I have already started on a poem regarding the suitcase, as its image has, as you may see, had a profound effect on me.
From a Welcome Guest
Sue Boyle’s Judenplatz work is very powerful. It works well as both a poem and a staged play. I know the Judenplatz from my visit to Vienna a few years ago when l especially wanted to see R W’s Memorial to the Austrian Jews. Gloria and I found it a moving experience as we had also seen another group of sculptures in a busy square that graphically illustrated how Jewish citizens were treated during WWII . I think the afternoon’s performance worked well because of the skills of the director and the flexibility of the writing group. I was pleased to have an opportunity to participate in such a challenging venture.
From a Subscriber
Many thanks to Graeme for curating such a stimulating day and one so different from our usual sedentary activities. It was challenging but ultimately rewarding to work in a large group and experience the sort of solidarity felt by actors and members of a choir. There are bound to be numerous tributes to the power and poignancy of Sue Boyle’s writing so I will not risk repeating them. Instead, I wish to say what a privilege it was to speak her hauntingly beautiful words. The need to do justice to the lines and testify to the importance of their message inspired us all to produce a final performance that belied the very short rehearsal time.
From a Subscriber
This was an amazing and profoundly moving day. I really valued the chance to work in a small group in the morning collaborating with them to create a fresh piece between us. Then the opportunity for each group to share more widely was also welcome.In the afternoon Graeme somehow managed to pull the whole group -plus some newcomers – together to create an ensemble piece for “Report from the Judenplatz” in a ridiculously small amount of time. Yet I feel we managed this and audience feedback corroborates this. Well done to all involved.
From Morag Kiziewicz
I feel the whole day enhanced my thinking around poetry and performance, and send thanks to Graeme and to Ama for holding and backing such an intense experience.