Following the premiere of Good Grief at BIG UP North Dance Theatre Festival, Sarah Lockwood from Maelstrom Theatre discusses her experiences with grief and how they informed Maelstrom’s latest piece; as well as what it’s like being back in the Ludus Dance studio…
“I attended my first funeral when I was around 10. Grandad had been poorly for some time and I still remember the look on Dad’s face when he sat us down to tell us that Grandad was no longer with us. I remember crying with my Dad. Looking back, I think this was important. By showing us his sadness and allowing us to share our grief together, my Dad taught us that these complex emotions need not be repressed or held back. He didn’t shield us, instead allowing my sister and I to go and mourn, pay our respects and to learn about death.
23 years later, and having recently lost my mother to cancer, I find myself in a studio making work about these experiences. Living with the death of someone so close and so pivotal intensifies and magnifies our awareness of the impact of death, both on yourself, but also those around you. It ripples outwards from its epicentre within you like an atomic bomb. Those at its centre suffer emotional disfigurement, catastrophe, turmoil, confusion and pain. Others in neighbouring towns and cities also feel the impact, whether this be direct, or in-direct, causing them to reflect on their own loved ones, grieve their own losses or face fears of loss. They struggle to find words, grasping at clichés, filling the silence… I too am guilty of making those awkward comments, the peculiar things you say out of awkwardness, sympathy or pity. After all, how do you write or speak to such intense sadness? Perhaps words alone are not enough?
Being in the studio with Anthony Briggs and Lee Affen was really beneficial on a personal level. Our art provided structures to help us discuss, question, share experiences through movement and music. The space was collaborative, brutally honest and supportive. We reflected and shared stories, some of which made sense, and some that did not. Sometimes the starting point wasn’t a narrative, instead we were led by a sense of something, a feeling or a mood.
The creation of Good Grief was instinctive; we came armed with ideas, moods and writing. Ant had created the set and therefore the physical world, but crucially we stayed flexible and allowed our experiences to shape, flow and develop intuitively. Sometimes crying, sometimes laughing, for me the process felt like a release, a way to communicate the internal and external experience of death, without the limitations and awkwardness of conversation. Where there were no words, sound and movement communicated visceral experiences with more richness and truth, exploring and presenting our experiences of death as all-encompassing and sensory. Most of all I found making Good Grief has allowed me time to process, when all the immediacy is gone. ‘Making’ has helped me to dig and locate the parts of my grief that I buried in order to get back into work and on with life.
So, we invite you to come see us, chat with us, share your experiences. We need to shine some light on this and be better at grieving”.
Good Grief is a Maelstrom Theatre production supported by Ludus Dance and the Southport Festival. You can catch Good Grief later on this year at the Southport Festival on Saturday 11th May.