Leave To Remain
Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh Thu 24-Sat 26 May, then touring
Anyone who has experienced grief will be aware of its immense power as an emotion. This is often magnified by the fact that at least in Western society, it’s not a subject we’re encouraged to talk about. After losing his wife Susie Innes, dramatist John Clifford, author of such theatrical legends as Losing Venice, Celestina and Faust experienced this phenomena at close hand.
‘When Susie died, there was nothing really. I mean friends were really lovely and so on, but there was a general expectation that you just got on with life,’ he tells me. Clifford then waited for months for grief counselling from overwhelmed public services, before determining, in combination with performer Suzanne Dance, who experienced a similar phenomena around the loss of her father, that something needed to be said about the issue.
This piece, incorporating both text and movement, is the upshot. But it isn’t as you might expect. ‘We don’t want it to be depressing; we just wanted to create a space in which it could be acknowledged, because a lot of people have had similar experiences.’ The work incorporates text from a variety of sources, from Shakespeare to Clifford’s own writing, while Dance’s contribution is also eclectic. Part of the purpose is to expose Western attitudes to death ‘We’ve come to see things upside down. In the culture we live in, if someone cries, which is a necessary thing to do, we think, “God, they’re cracking up, breaking down.” Actually, they’re getting better.’