Ah a writer’s life. We get up late, have a glass of wine, bash out a story and then go to some fancy party where we schmooze with other writers, the beautiful, the famous and the desperate. Oh and we get paid for it – how glamorous we all are.
Oh wait, that’s all complete fantasy. Even when we have an idea for a story, it takes months – if not years – for it to actually come to fruition, as we agonise over every chapter, every word and every bloody semi-colon, chewing our fingernails. But as I’m writing this with a glass of Prosecco I’ll give you that one.
So naturally I could associate fairly well with the subject matter of Martin Crimp’s Fewer Emergencies. Three writers, tossing ideas around a table (yes, with wine), trying to understand their character and why he or she is that way. When you finally see the light, it can be both exciting and distressing because what we have created, that nice character from Chapter One is now an evil, twisted monster.
Does this reflect on us as a writer? As a person? Is our own history somehow interwoven with this story, this character, this outcome?
These are the questions that Weird Sisters ask us to consider as we are thrust into the tumultuous world of words and stories. Fewer Emergencies is actually comprised of three separate plays, yet when performed together they produce a deeper story. Crimp’s script contains almost no stage directions or hints of how he envisioned the plays, giving the cast plenty of flexibility to use their own imaginations.
What they have done is chaotic, poignant and a little bit bizarre (there’s a song in Act II which completely threw me), but this is physical theatre at its best, complete with spine-tingling music from Nigel Dams.
Writers are after all creative (albeit mad) individuals and the performance definitely reflects this! Tables are overturned, blueberries are skewered, children’s drawings are sprayed red with blood and the audience risk being covered in discarded ideas when the bin is emptied and hurled about.
Each of the actors takes it in turns to be ‘the lead’ as they share their story and how it’s coming along. A young woman is trapped in a bad marriage, yet she loves him and “things are improving” so what is the real problem? Is the writer here (Tanya Chainey) herself caught in a traumatic relationship and is there more to why she continuously refers to baby Bobby as Jimmy?
In the next tale children are shot in the head, yet the gunman seems to have no problems in his life as the writer (Stephanie Goodfellow) insists that everything in his life is “fine” and he even has his own children. Yet when we discover the postman is sometimes late, the tale takes a turn (including the song) and things get a little more twisted… Who is the postman and what is his connection to the massacre?
The third part (sort of) ties the stories together and – as writer three (Alison Nicol) explain – “things are improving” once more… except that poor baby Bobby (who is now slightly older) gets shot in the hip by a stray bullet in his house that is full of cupboards containing weird and wonderful things, including Paris and a lot of uranium!
It is a surreal collection of plays that are as wacky as they are worrying, but as a writer it all makes perfect sense: the scattered ways that our minds work as we consider our ideas, our characters and – hardest of all – our final ending.
Because we are all at risk of getting so attached to our stories that we cannot let go… I mean we are always told to write about what we know and perhaps we all descend into the madness that threatens each of the characters in Fewer Emergencies as they and their own characters blur and blend into one.
The Weird Sisters have given us a fascinating interpretation of this collection of plays and although it is a strange script, their performance brings it to life in a completely new and inventive way.
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes