Camden People’s Theatre, London

Devised, Made, Curated, by Shelley Silas & Martyn Duffy
Performed by Martyn Duffy
Sound by Martyn Duffy
Additional material by friends.


Almost 5 years ago, I took my friend Martyn out for a pizza. He was having a low time, work, life, health matters were not being kind to him. We were planning our first Fun Palace at Brockwell Lido and post meeting Martyn and I decided to break bread and drink wine and talk. We chatted about his life, his many illnesses. I said we should create a show about what it’s like to be alive when you were supposed to be dead, when you had planned your funeral several times, said goodbye many more – how did that feel? We talked a little more, made some notes, went away to think, our lives got in the way and that was about it.

Fast forward a couple of years. We were at the beach with his husband and my wife and two close friends. They all went for a walk in the evening, while Martyn and I decided to stay in our warm, comfortable cottage. Martyn was low again. I asked him how he was, where he was at this point in his life, other illnesses were looming. Surgery was not far away. We talked at length and the show we had discussed a couple of years earlier and we decided to take it forwards, to make it happen. Neither of us knew how.

We spent weeks on a cruelly long and detailed application for funding, hours and hours and friends read it and advised us and we were turned down.

We were fed up with the whole process, despite our let down, we continued with our ‘idea’, and via my wife via a friend who worked at Camden People’s Theatre, we were invited to create a showing for their current The Shape of Things to Come: Big Bang season. We started from not having a clue what we were doing or how to do it. We knew that sound was important to both of us and Martyn is great at anything sound related, he has taught himself to use equipment that I can barely pronounce. We knew it was about pain and memory and the stigma attached to illness, but more than that, we wanted to incorporate friends’ memories, not just Martyn’s memories of his own illnesses.

We had several meetings over lunches (Martyn is a superb cook) and really had no idea what we were trying to say or achieve. Over the months, a process that I am not used to, started to drip feed idea and thoughts into our minds. We talked a great deal about so much, Martyn opened up in a way I can only describe as gracious and generous. We had a beginning, then another beginning and so it went with days of nothing coming up and ideas we binned and time passing and twenty minutes to fill. It was hard. It is hard. Devising is much harder than sitting alone with a concrete idea and writing a script by yourself. But having someone to bounce ideas off is so much better and more fun and it is hard. Devising is a different process, with a definite end goal if you are fortunate to have a theatre ready to say yes, whether it’s a showing or a full length piece. You have to trust that the process will happen, it will show itself and somehow it will come together, and when it does you know it’s been worth the waiting and wondering and banging your head against a brick wall, and hoping one of you will come up with something astonishing.

We have come up with 20 mins, not astonishing, but a good start, with everything we wanted to include for a showing, and a little more, after his husband and my wife had their own private showing a few days ago and gave us a couple of welcome suggestions. There are no egos involved, it’s not about Martyn’s contribution or mine it’s about making the piece, the twenty minutes that took so long to formulate, the very best it can be for an audience who will go away and hopefully, give us feedback so we can create towards a longer show next year. Who knows, I might be in that version, but that longer piece has already started to grow and will have three sections; Resilience, Revelation, Recall. The latter forms the showing at Camden People’s Theatre on Sunday 26th November.

Shelley Silas

November 21st, 2017


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