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Clap Your Hands

Clap Your Hands

‘Clap Your Hands’ by The Manhattan Transfer - a song familiar to no one involved with the project except me - was an essential part of the piece that I had written as a Scene for Survival. It didn’t matter that at over three minutes in length, to play any significant part of it would encroach significantly on the five minutes running time limit, nor that the cost of sampling it would be prohibitive. The song title was written into the play, including as part of a fantasy sequence central to the piece that also was the play: of a piece of music that once connected two people so that one might find a way to reach the other again - a moment of hope and denial simultaneously. It was essential.

Except, after much dedicated research by the producer, Callum Smith he found out that the rights to the song are split between a number of different unreachable companies in a number of different countries and so it turned out it wasn’t essential. Or maybe it was. To the play as I had written it and not to the piece as it became. The stage direction for the end that read ‘music and dancing’ remained. And then it didn’t. It changed.

The brief was for five minutes which is less than a page of writing and I thought I had taken out as much as I could until Nicholas Bone suggested some edits. I thought I knew how the ending looked until Nicole Cooper performed it. I thought I knew what the soundtrack should be until Scott Twynholm wrote it. Working - and in some cases meeting one another for the first time  - over Zoom was strange and I felt sometimes that there was a caution in our interactions with one another that perhaps would have been broken down in a shared rehearsal space. What I remember most from the process is the care everyone took - in the moments I witnessed and in the work that was produced.

The title - Getting Close - comes from another song lyric “I can feel the distance getting close”. I submitted the idea early on in lockdown and by the time we were working on it, the rules had changed sufficiently to make the landscape described a strange one once again. The idea I submitted was an exploration of how touch between people has always been dangerous in the context of interactions or relationships that are seen as transgressive. I’d like to say that it resonates with other circumstances in which bodies are perceived as vulnerable or dangerous but at the time of writing - at the height of Black Lives Matter protests - I was very aware of what I was not addressing, falling back on the excuse that this was the idea that NTS had accepted. One piece of feedback I received was that the piece was naive - not meant or received as an insult - naive in the hope and sense of community available to some of us in those first weeks of lockdown.

Last summer I was supposed to be in rehearsals for an adaptation of a Greek play with Nicole in the lead and, as I write this, she is in rehearsals with the company but I am not - another year’s delay to the project because of the restrictions still in place. I’m currently researching a play as part of a Professional Project award from the Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland. It’s also about entitlement to space and narrative and I was really happy with the idea I submitted but it’s taken me a long time to work out how to write it, how to draw the different strands of the story together. The only guaranteed outcome is the script and so, realistically, little prospect of it moving far beyond the page which is perhaps in part why it’s been a struggle to realise but I am trying to be hopeful. I’m striving for the kind of naivety that is less insult and more inspiration. The kind that is essential.