“They are knickers! They have an elastic waistband and have seen a lot of periods!” Something told me this performance wouldn’t be one for the faint hearted. Written and performed by Claire Murphy-Morgan, Editor explores the journey of losing a diary and finding a voice.
Walking into the performance space I am met by a mountain of rubbish bags, debris and litter strewn across the room. At first I expect my mother to appear and begin her usual ‘get this flea pit tidied up’ lecture, until I remember I am not in my own bedroom despite some rather messy similarities. As the audience gathers, the lights go down and I sit transfixed as Claire emerges from within the pyramid of waste belting out Boyzone’s aptly named ‘Words’ at the top of her lungs. She clambers out into the space on her hands and knees and the captivating journey begins. She informs us that on the 6March 2011, her car was broken into by opportunist thieves. Amongst an array of personal belongings, her diary of three years was taken. Editor centres around the aftermath of this loss and of the chaotic three years concealed within the diary’s stolen pages.
Claire has us in stitches as she unashamedly recalls her string of ex lovers and the unique experience she shared with each. No stone is left unturned as she compares the men and women from her past to grubby toys pulled from out of the rubbish dump; she explains how and why she fell for each of them, all ending in an unfortunate case of dumping – how fitting. Could you compare someone you dated to a toy? I racked my brains and hoped to find an Action Man; unfortunately I can only remember a distinct line-up of Mr Potato Heads.
The beauty of Editor is its ability to go from hilarious to deeply pensive and dark in mere moments, somehow Claire struck the balance perfectly. We hold our breath as Claire recollects her traumatic time spent in hospital and compares it to a bloody battle. She moves around the space transforming it into No Mans Lands using nothing but a broom handle and her own words.
My stomach turns as I watch Claire talk to Bernard onstage (Bernard is a real Ox’s heart) and she is comparing him to an arrogant thespian she once knew. My friend Charlie is sat next to me and I can feel her vegetarian toes curling as gelatine falls to the floor and covers Claire’s blouse. Swearing like a trooper, Claire continues to dip in and out of those turbulent three years lost forever in the captured diary. I am enthralled.
I was both shocked and empowered to witness such an exceptionally brave and intimate piece of theatre. Not many individuals would have the nerve to share their deepest, darkest secrets in front of an audience, let alone out loud. It got me to thinking, how much of my life would I be willing to share, and how much do I keep secret in my internal notebook? How would you feel if your undisclosed thoughts and experiences were available for all to read? Every aspect of Claire’s life was examined onstage and left to be dissected and scrutinized by an audience of strangers. The whole piece remained a paradox within itself. Claire was furious that her private thoughts and memories had been stolen and potentially read by strangers, yet, there she stood baring her soul to a room full of people she didn’t know. This performance does exactly what the diary didn’t.
After the show I asked Claire about her performance. I was curious to find out whether this had been a therapeutic process for her, did it help her grieve the loss of her diary and help her come to terms with the more trying times in her life? She explained that whilst she felt it was in a way cathartic, it was also art, the layers could not be unpicked and categorised. She wanted to show people how disposable life is, how one person can edit another person’s life. Above all, she wanted to create a sense of resonance with the audience.
So how did a ten minute performance at Newcastle’s Jazz Cafe turn into a 55 minute performance headed to The Albany in London? Claire explained to me she allowed Editor to ‘follow its natural journey’ and that it is ‘ever expanding’. ‘Find your voice,’ she said to me, ‘find your passion and share it with the world, whether it is your lost diary or your relationship with your pet sausage dog.’
Editor is the real life version of dreaming you’re standing naked in front of the whole school; essentially this is what happened to Claire. Her life was stolen and her secrets divulged, but do the perpetrators of that fateful crime realise the spark they ignited when they stole Claire’s paper companion? I think not. I am pleased to report that Editor was a bold, courageous and real piece of theatre, something I hope Claire and her colleagues are exceptionally proud of creating. It was thought provoking and really made me consider the impact of one’s own words. I now realise just how Dear a Diary can be.
By Alex Woolley
Live Theatre’s March Guest Blogger