As we all know, 2020 was a washout. 'Nuff said about that. So we were quietly hoping that 2021 might be a bit better, but it wasn't looking good as we entered another full lockdown after Christmas. We knew we had a couple of performances booked in but that we wouldn't be able to perform them. But the show must go on! And Zoom became our best friend. It's fair to say we had our reservations about putting on any kind of performance 'virtually', we pride ourselves in putting our hearts into our pieces and were worried the impact would be lost. So, what to do? We didn't want another year of nothing!
During 2019 we had developed individual monologues which we had already performed in front of audiences and they had been very well received. Would they be as effective over Zoom? Would they be as powerful if the audience could only see our faces, without us being able to build an atmosphere, without the 'bigger picture' of a physical performance?
What if we created a 'smaller picture'? Or no picture at all. Just our voices. Like a radio play perhaps? Could we make it work? We didn't have much time to find out as our first booking was in January for the DClinPsych students at the University of Hertfordshire as part of their course module entitled ' Power, Inclusion and Social Justice', so we set about rehearsing over Zoom, cameras off, just listening. And it worked! It was a different way of working for us, solely using vocal tone, pauses, volume and silence to create the scene in the mind of the listener. Our individual monologues are each so different but they all still worked amazingly well, and the feedback was incredible! It was a different experience for the audience too, having to listen and actually hear what was being said, without the visual of a physical actor to watch. It's always fascinating for us to hear what the students have taken from our performances and I think it's fair to say that we didn't know what to expect this time round. But they had been so engaged, so 'in the moment' with each monologue, with different thoughts, reflections and reactions to feed back to us. It was lovely for us to see all the little heart emojis popping up on the screen! We enjoyed it immensely and it filled us with confidence to be able to use Zoom again for our booking with Queen Mary's University Msc Creative Arts and Mental Health students for their module 'Critical Encounters in Art and Mental Health' in February, and finally for the Art Therapists of the Herts Partnership NHS Foundation Trust as part of their continuing professional development in October.
Once the lockdown restrictions were eased enough that we were able to meet again in our new rehearsal space at Beechen Grove, we took the bull by the horns and set to work on our as yet untitled new piece. We started in our usual fashion, batting around ideas, walking around the room just to see what emerged organically. It's no exaggeration to say that we had so many ideas that we had trouble trying to trim them down to something cohesive and workable. And we trimmed, and reshaped, and trimmed again, lost our momentum, started again, added more, and more, got confused, lost the plot and blew our minds. But it's been incredible! And we've had so much fun. It's been the hardest we have ever worked, it's the most complex piece we have ever created, and we can't wait to perform it. Although a slight departure from our obvious themes of mental health, this piece is about the complexity of relationships within a family, the fluidity of roles and the fragility of individuals within the strength of the family unit. This piece is also our first to be in two Acts. We are in the finishing stages of Act 1 and will be working on Act 2 during 2022 as well as performing Act 1, the first being in January. We are all so excited about this piece and very proud of what we have created so far.
So 2021 began with a question mark but it has ended with a sense of achievement for us Nuts! As a Company we are all in a good place after a very challenging couple of years. We've each individually had some very difficult times, but as we have always done, we have pulled together to keep each other afloat and get us through. Because above all else, it's our mental health that matters and it will always be our priority. And so we will welcome 2022 with open arms and continue to raise awareness, end the stigma and promote positive attitudes towards mental health issues.
We wish you all a very happy Christmas and a happy and healthy new year!
From all of us at May Contain Nuts