Still R&D at Nuffield Theatre

TFIU have returned from a great R&D week care of the Nuffield Theatre Lab where we learnt loads: the sun always shines in Southampton, but the city’s buses sometimes disappear if not like the Bermuda Triangle then maybe the Solent Circle (buses are shown on the arrivals board, due in 1 min… then never materialise); but this latter is more than made up for by the fact the city boasts the best veggie Indian restaurant in the universe, Indian Melody.

We arrived with lots to investigate about new show Still, which is inspired by the life and work of Vivian Maier, who has become known as the “nanny photographer” although she could more truthfully be called a genius photographer who sometimes earned her living by looking after children. The more we look into the life and art of this extraordinary woman the more we’re impressed: her pictures are brilliant, there seems little question about that, but her attitude to life, her resilience and single minded courage and bloodymindedness to make her art are truly awe inspiring.

Our questions about our proposed show concerned the ways we should present her life, partly in light of the issues of ‘privacy’ which have arisen as we have explored our subject: Maier never exhibited her work (nor even told friends that she was a photographer), and there must be reasons for this. Since her death her work has been shown all over the world, books have been produced, an Oscar nominated film has been made… All great to show people what a genius photographer Maier was, but what would she think? Does this matter? How would she react to having a facebook page and a website? And now someone wants to make play about her…

The issues of privacy have given rise to another area of the proposed show- the privacy or lack of it we have today due to the technology which surrounds us second by second in our domestic and working lives. We have met with some people who have worked for organisations which have exploited people’s online privacy for profit; from what we’ve learnt I’m nervous about switching on my smart phone these days.

Our five days with the Nuffield helped us progress with thematic and theatrical explorations surrounding the play, and have given me loads to go on ahead of our two weeks at Ovalhouse in November, which will culminate in three work in progress showings on 12th, 13th nd 14th November.

We worked in a good sized room in Southampton, which was pretty quiet (is there a totally silent space in the UK to rehearse in?) with all the back-up we needed from the Nuffield team, especially Hannah, Chris and Annie. It was very useful for us to have a talk through our week with them at the start, half time and the end.

We’re fired up about the show and want to make something fascinating and involving that celebrates and honours Vivian Maier, and questions moral and modern questions of privacy.

To the next companies having a week at the Nuffield: you lucky people; everything is set up for you to make some good work. Watch out for the vanishing buses though.