Creator of Trilogy returns with new play Fatherland, Motherland
New play from Nic Green at Arches Live
The creator of the five-star feminist hit show Trilogy is going in search of her roots. Nic Green tells Mark Fisher where she’s at
Ask Nic Green where she thinks of as home and she has an immediate, if surprising, answer. ‘Nowhere,’ she says. ‘This is the problem.’
The creator of the celebrated Trilogy (returning to the Arches in November for a brief run) which prompted feminist flag-waving and tabloid sniggering for encouraging women to dance naked on stage, never seems to settle. She was born in Glasgow and lived there as an adult for ten years, yet her Yorkshire accent tells a different story. Through accident and design, she is always on the move.
‘I became “homeless” in 2006 and since then I’ve dotted in and out of places, mostly in Scotland, around Glasgow,’ says Green, who has recently been completing a thesis in Halifax while planning a revival of Trilogy for Dublin and Belfast and plotting a new show for Glasgow’s Arches. ‘I haven’t actually lived anywhere for a while. I lived somewhere that burnt down – we had a terrible fire – and that left me transient again. I had a campervan and I lived in that and I’ve lived with communities in the Borders. That’s one reason to ask, “What am I looking for? Do I need to understand something before I can stop and settle?”’
As a reaction to her displacement, she is embarking on Fatherland, Motherland, a show – still a work in progress – that will consider family, place and identity. For her, Scotland is the country of her father, a man who left before she was born and whom she has met on only one brief occasion. England, by contrast, is where she grew up with her mother and adoptive father. Both places have a powerful hold over her – she can sing you Yorkshire folk songs and Scottish ballads – but she knows that pinning down exactly what identity means is an imprecise art.
‘The feelings that are attached to places cannot be articulated in language, so I’m trying to understand them in performance,’ she says. ‘I’m taking the role of a relationship detective, trying to understand the subtle but complex relationships between everything.’
For her contribution to Arches Live, the annual feast of new work by local artists, she will be contemplating her male/Scottish lineage in Fatherland. Preferring to develop her work over a long period, she will get round to Motherland in due course. For now, these performances will mark the start of an inquiry into her own life, an inquiry that is likely to be ceremonial in atmosphere and to involve the participation of the audience – particularly the men.
‘It’s an ethnographic investigation of my blood and my roots and how we carry the places that we come from through our lives,’ she says. ‘It’s understanding these two places that I come from and understanding what you could call the “eco-psychology” of those two places – trying to discern the feelings attached to them. It’s a study of my relationship to these two lands and how that is relative to my relationship with those two parents.’
She is not interested in telling stories about her parents – not least because, in the case of her father, she doesn’t have any. Rather, she wants to explore what those figures mean symbolically. ‘I do feel some sort of sense of belonging in Scotland, even though my voice doesn’t match,’ she says. ‘I chose to return to Scotland when I became 18. Something, somewhere made me want to come back. At the time, I didn’t make the connection – “Oh I really want to see where I come from” – I never thought that. It certainly wasn’t in my conscious mind, but for some reason I did go back and I did put my roots down. Perhaps those things are connected.’
Her feelings for Yorkshire are equally strong. She has memories, associations and an accent that makes her sound like the locals. All this is part of her identity, an identity that seems to shift according to where she is. ‘I’m exploring how one develops an identity in our lands,’ she says. ‘How do I discern where I belong in the world and how do I find an authentic version of myself? Understanding where you come from can help you find that authenticity, that voice and that sense of home.’
The scratch performance is one of nearly 30 new pieces by theatremakers, artists and musicians crammed into one weekend at the Argyle Street venue. Green is not the only one thinking about her family. Ben Dunn will be trying to establish a different kind of relationship with his father in A Booming Voice, while Tom McCulloch makes the connection with his great grandmother in Landscape Sampler (No 2), a durational performance that uses century-old samplers as a way of contemplating the landscape of Scotland.
Elsewhere, Green’s fellow Trilogy star, Murray Wason will be considering the process of being uprooted in Why I Try to Dig the Earth, while Rachel Amey, a Trilogy participant, will be putting more thought into the place of women in Where Have I Come From? Where Are We Going?
Beyond that, you can expect the unexpected, whether it is Aelfred de Sigley and Calum Johnston using large balloons and bicycle pumps in an audiovisual installation, theatre critic Gareth Vile putting on his own self-critical Chat Show or Ugly Pup considering what it means to get older in Brandy and Summer Gloves. There will also be performances by Skye Loneragan, David Overend and Ian Smith from Mischief La-Bas.
For Green, a festival such as Arches Live is a chance to begin exploring an idea with a willing audience in tow. It is the start of a process that could take years and might well help her finally feel comfortable about settling down. ‘I’m not one of those people who feels like they have to go off and live in Spain,’ she says. ‘I love Scotland and I also love Yorkshire. I love living in Britain in general because it’s an extraordinarily beautiful country. So I don’t have the need to escape, it’s just the need to feel I can put my roots down and ground myself. Maybe I’ll feel more like doing that when I’ve investigated this theme. I hope so.”
Arches Live, Arches, Glasgow, Thu 16–Sat 25 Sep; Fatherland, Motherland: Fatherland, Arches, Glasgow, Thu 16 & Fri 17 Sep; Trilogy, Arches, Glasgow, Wed 3–Sat 6 Nov.