The more observant among you may have noticed that we haven't blogged for a while...or in fact at all this year! Ooops. We shall use the at least partially valid excuse that we've been quite busy having a baby. But as well as having a baby we have also been busy (perhaps too busy) making some theatre. Our two major projects this year are a new opera about Locked In Syndrome (a condition where the body is cut off from the brain leaving the patient fully aware and in tact cognitively but physically entirely paralysed) called Flicker, and a collection of 6 short plays responding to the events of the Arab uprisings, within the framework of the Arabian Nights, called (somewhat unimaginatively perhaps) Arab Nights.
On the face of it the two projects couldn't be more different, but this week I have been struck by how they speak to each-other in terms of connection. The opera - for which I am writing the libretto - is being based on the verbatim transcripts of interviews with patients and staff at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability and after months of meetings with the staff, last week Jon Nicholls (the composer) and I finally met with some of the patients. Some of them are completely Locked In (and can only blink their eyes to communicate - as in the book and film 'The Diving Bell and The Butterfly') and others partially locked in with some degree of movement in their hands - such that they are able to use assistive communication aides, most commonly a light-writer which allows them to type sentences that are sometimes then translated into speech by the same computer. But as you can imagine this is an incredibly long and tiring process for them, and it can take up to half an hour for them to communicate one sentence. But perhaps the most striking thing about these interviews, aside from the patients' somewhat surprising optimism about their condition and situation, is how hard they were prepared to work to make a connection and communicate something to us. And relatedly how a large part of this act of connection and communication is (although helped a lot by the technology) actually still hugely non-verbal and conveyed through their eyes and through touch.
Meanwhile I have been making connections - again with the help of technology, albeit the simpler form of email - with the writers of Arab Nights who come from Egypt Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine & Syria and who mostly still reside in these countries. It's an amazing thing to have forged relationships with these writers - some of whom I may well never actually meet in the flesh, or 'in the real' as one of the writers so poetically put it. And yet through email, Facebook, Twitter we share stories, pictures of our children, the minutiae that make up a life. As well as transcending borders, and languages, to create these plays together it feels like we're also making very human connections that I hope will continue long after the production itself is over.
And between the meetings and the emails and the connecting with people on the other side of the world and with people locked inside their own private worlds we also fumble towards the connections you try to make with a tiny person - who now four and a half months old is desperate to make his own connection to the world and everyone in it.