When Kirsten and I first met up we spent a long time talking about the young person who wrote the original poems and journals, and about the place and the journey that had inspired them. The problem with the piece as it stood was that it didn’t really seem to capture the impact those events had had. We talked about spirituality, about the Tarot, about drugs, about youth, about India. And we started to talk about change. All stories need change, so what change had taken place? What had Kirsten taken from India? The moon cannot be stolen, but she had come away with something, we just needed to identify what it was.
We both have an interest in the body. Kirsten’s approach is via shiatsu and yoga, which she began to learn in India, mine is via the voice and body system of Arthur Lessac, which was the starting point for my experimental theatre work. Another interest we share is in meditation, and the concepts of “awareness” or “mindfulness”. It was the overlap of these interests, their clear connection to the show, and my techniques that offered a tantalising clue as to how to proceed.
I had come to the meeting wanting to explore a particular physical theatre method, but I had no idea whether it would work, or whether Kirsten would like it. The method, drawn loosely from the work of Polish Theatre director, Jerzy Grotowski, would involve the use of “personal ritual” to explore character, in order, through the focus and attention that ritual requires, to draw an actor towards themselves and the moment. At the beginning of our meeting I felt very tentative about introducing this idea, but after forty minutes over coffee discussing change, awareness, spirituality, youth and maturity and India, I felt more confident to suggest it. Could we simply begin, I asked, by trying something, to see what we discover? Could we see if we can locate the difference between the Kirsten who went travelling and the Kirsten who wrote the show by using a simple set of ritual actions on stage and then just see where that leads us? And the more we talked about the idea, the more we liked it. What ritual, we wondered? The simplest one of all, washing hands. And where shall we start? In India’s holiest city, on the banks of its most holy river. In Varanasi, of course.
In many ways, in retrospect, it was very risky. But we trusted the idea. And in that first ritual we began to find the difference between Kirsten then and Kirsten now, we started to see the change at the heart of the journey…