Radical Fucks: Mutual Contracts of Risk, Care and Love (2018)

I wrote this (late) for the 10th anniversary of The Basement Theatre.  It’s an attempt at a kind of rhizomatic, time-fuckery history of some memories associated with the people and the space.  It’s not finished, and it’s really not perfect. I’ve struggled to put to words the feeling that rises in my chest when I think of the effect we have had on one another.  Maybe it’s because it’s a feeling I’m not used to, or have been forced to explain before. When someone feels true empowerment in their natural strengths, and forgiveness for their natural weaknesses, it can be something like falling in love.  It can be something like seeing a moment in time and realising that it will never be able to repeat itself. It can be something like floating in space. What follows is a meagre attempt at capturing some of these feelings.

One thing is certain.  I’m not done yet.

It is 2014. I am running up the steps to the Basement.  Someone has just told me that they really couldn’t care less if I decided to cancel a season of my work, one that I fought for them to program.  I only have half the money from Council I need to pull off said season. Sophie catches me on the steps. She says I can have two weeks in the main space in September.  “To do what?” I ask. “Anything you want,” she says. I give the money back to Council. I cancel the season. I choose the venue that gives a fuck. I don’t look back. 

It is 2006.  I am part of a troupe of players led by Madeleine Hyland. The Basement is not The Basement, The Basement is Silo Theatre.  Maddy and I have been putting on Shakespeare plays in pubs.  We flip coins for parts. We decide to move one of our plays out of the pub and into the Silo.  We walk into the main space. We sit and we think, for what seems like a long time. Then without much verbal communication, the entire ensemble moves all the seats as one into a hexagonal round.  Maddy and I paint a giant orb in white on the ceiling. We paint two swans facing each other. We paint an eagle. We paint into the small hours. And afterwards, we paint it black again.  

It is 2017.  I have just left my husband.  I suspect that everything that was any good about my work was actually him.  I am on my own now, watching the first show I have made without him. I am scared.  

It is 2014.  We take out all the seats.  We build two stages. We spray paint “Instructions Not Included” on the floor.  We don’t realise until much later that you can’t get spray paint off of concrete.  

It is 2008.  Charlie, Morgana and Michelle want money to put air conditioners in the Basement.  They decide to put on a Christmas show with a rotating cast of celebs. Because I am on Shortland Street at the time, I weasel my way in.  I create a character that has a New Zealand accent because I have a New Zealand accent. She is angry about structural sexism and racism, because I am angry about structural sexism and racism.  I am at the tech rehearsal. The director has chosen entrance music for me. It’s a Bollywood song. I stop the rehearsal. I insist on Nina Simone.

It is 2017.  There are potatoes sitting in a circle around a tree in Myers Park.

It is 2017.  Lydia has decided to put on a Fringe festival with no money.  She is scared. We are sitting next to each other. Julia is on stage alone.  We have decided not to tell the audience what to do. The lyrics to We Belong by Pat Benatar are projected on the wall.  The karaoke track is playing. Julia’s eyes are closed and we are all wondering, “will they sing?” 

It is 1995.  I arrive in New Zealand from India.  I’m confused. But not as much as everyone who meets me.  I grow up in a margin, I grow up in several margins. I become an artist because it seems to be the only way I cope with the world around me. I think I’m fucked.  There’s no way this will work.  

It is 2014.  Julia gets in a screaming match with a member of the National party on Ponsonby Rd for sticking LIES stickers on all of John Key’s billboards.  

It is 2016.  Andrew needs somewhere to lead a consciousness revolution.  For a year we’ve been designing consciousness revolutions in city streets, in water.  We decide on a tree in Myers Park. We carry potatoes.  

It is 2017. One voice, two voices, six voices, twenty voices, all of the voices singing.  

It is 2005.  Jennifer smashes plates all over the floor.  Then she smashes some more.

It is 2015.  Three young actors pull an inordinate amount of tinsel, and paper from under several trap doors and throw it everywhere.  One of them undoes something and pulls the stage apart. The lights fail. When they come up again, nothing is the same.

It is 4pm.  What is the word for when people give you a radical amount of love? The kind of care like a political movement?   Do you think that this could kill capitalism?

2008?  A friend has decided to go to clown school in Paris and we throw a party in the bar.  I bake some very special cupcakes for the occasion. I try to convince their father’s girlfriend not to eat one.  I fail.

Ancient History.  Who started it?

It is 2014.  We are annoyed at reviewers.  We decide to invite 30 people from different backgrounds to review the show from their particular point of expertise.  The Basement cleaner’s review says it will cost $200 to clean up after the show each night. The horse commentator says Julia wins.  The lawyer says our application for resource consent would be denied. The judge says we are found guilty of not following any kind of convention.  Ash’s mother says it’s good but he’s the best thing about it.

It is in the Past.  There is a Big Bang.

It is in the Future. There is a Big Bang.

It is 2014.  Elise insists that all Basement patrons come to see two of my shows as an example of what she considers the Basement to be a space for.  Many leave. Some fall asleep. I don’t think anyone gets it. But Elise is grinning. I understand for the first time what is is like to be in a mutual contract and collaboration with someone.

It is 2016.  We are sick of money.  We collect it in a bucket. We throw it down the drain of the Basement carpark.  I am up the top with others yelling out the window – don’t do it! Give it to me!  Think of the fishes! Down by the drain they are saying, nah, just go for it mate. Who needs it, let’s be free of it.  They do it. The world’s casino continues.

It is 2018.  Gabrielle tells me that a phrase I once wrote sticks out to her: “I have a roughly two year limit on behaving well, and then I will tear the building down with my bare hands.”  During a performance I start writhing and spinning, sliding, slipping across the concrete floor in a giant pool of fake blood.  I reach for something to grip on to. There is a pipe on the brick wall. I grab and pull myself towards the wall. The pipe comes apart.  Air conditioning fluid spills out into the blood. I think… “am I done with this building?”

Then.  There is a stream that flows through here.

History.  Who’s writing it?

It is 2018.  I walk into the Basement.  FAFSWAG are throwing a party.  I recognise about 5% of the people in there. After a few hours I’m tired and think of leaving but I notice Coco Solid skulking around.  The message is clear. You, coloniser, sir are done and dusted and there was ab-so-lute-ly no need for you (there never was), goodbye, I hope you get hemorrhoids. 

It is 2018.  There is congealed  blood in the cracks and a fruit fly problem.

2016. I am on the bones of my arse.  The Basement gives me a job.

2017. I am on the bones of my arse.  The Basement gives me a job.

2018. I am on the bones of my arse.  The Basement gives me a job.

It is 9 weeks ago.  Water gushes out of the trap door.

It is today. I am already past the deadline for this piece.  I sit and stare and sit and stare. What is the word for something that delights, messes with, encourages your white wine spritzer habit and fucks you off on a regular basis all at once?

Sometimes.  I feel outside it.

Sometimes.  I feel inside it.

It is tomorrow.  Somehow I manage to articulate how vital events can’t happen without leaders that are generous, politically astute, responsive, responsible and don’t give up.

Often.  I think about it.  Especially when I’m out of town.  I wonder if it remembers me. I wonder if it misses me.  I wonder what it will be when I am gone. I wonder what I will be when it is gone.

It is the day after. Somehow I manage to articulate how vital events can’t happen without artists that are generous, politically astute, responsive, responsible and don’t give up.

The Distant Future.  What happens?

Now. There is a stream that flows through here.

The Beginning.  I think about the world spinning in Outer space a lot.  I think about how despiste this extraordinary idea, people are still able to be selfish and greedy.  I think about how being selfish and greedy have become normal things to be for many people. I think about how to subvert this.  I think about how to risk showing radical care and love over these things, and turn this into a political action.  

Soon. I sit on the stoop.  I breathe fire. 

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