Under My Duvet (until further notice)
5 months ago, as a performance task, I was asked to choose an object or material which I connected to in some way and to talk about it. Almost as a joke, I chose my duvet, as particularly since lockdown began, I had been spending much longer in my bed. When given the chance to analyse this bond further, I found there was a much deeper reasoning underpinning this connection.
I started by spending hours in rehearsal rooms exploring my duvet through movement improvisation, at times completely inside the duvet cover, or wearing it like an emperor’s robes, spinning it and throwing it, cradling it, being cradled by it. I found great value in spending time engaging in play with my duvet. The time spent improvising with the duvet led me to discover that it had a person
I found myself exploring isolation and loneliness at first, as the duvet felt like an object which held lots of sadness and exhaustion. This then shifted into my depression, as fatigue and melancholy are very persistent symptoms for me. I wanted the piece to be an open and honest exposition of my experience of living with chronic depression and anxiety.
My main focus of the piece was
exploring how I use escapism - both literal and metaphorical - as a coping mechanism for my depression. I enjoyed exploring hiding behind different modes of performance, behind comedy, behind a persona, behind a screen, behind a literal duvet, and behind the abstract. Developing movement choreography with my duvet allowed me to portray some of the more exposing and vulnerable aspects of my depression, without feeling unsafe or overexposed within the work.
I found myself using the performance as an opportunity to create a safe space for myself. When on stage, I hold the power and control over the situation - I have carefully designed and curated the space, which then allows me to exist and be seen in a way that I feel comfortable, safe, and held within.
I strongly wanted to find a way to explore my depression, intrusive thoughts and suicidal feelings through performance, without the material feeling triggering for me, or an audience. I feel that this performance is specifically for a mentally ill audience, that they might feel heard and understood, but not triggered. This was something I explored throughout the process, making different scraps of work exploring different methods of talking about my depression.
The main focus of my process was finding a way to work with my depression, as opposed to working against it. In practice, this involved working very intuitively, listening to my body and checking in with my energy levels to try to find my limits. This meant working entirely from bed some days - this is where all of my music and videos were edited. It also involved working to my abilities each day and being flexible and adaptable. I had to practice self kindness and self soothing activities throughout the process - a prime example of this being visiting my happy place.
Towards the end of my process I began working with Ciaran Stewart as a BSL integrated performer in my show. This added so much to the piece, far more than just BSL translation. It added communication between us in the rehearsal room and on stage. Ciaran’s presence became a valuable asset in my project. This became particularly pronounced when, 3 weeks before the show was filmed, I fell off a rope swing and broke my arm.
In the remaining time, we then had to work to adapt and alter the show to make it accessible to me, given that I was performing one arm down. Any movements like lifting, or throwing, or folding the duvet became 10 times more complicated. Ciaran and I had to find creative ways to adapt the material, creating synergy between us in the performance. Each moment became a conversation, rather than the solo task it had been previously. This form lent itself to challenging the isolation I had been exploring with the solo material before. This obstacle in the process also forced me to ask for more help, from my collaborators and my tech team, which my depression often makes very difficult for me.
This show was a very cathartic performance and was a very cathartic process, but in reality it didn’t heal me or cure me in any way. I never expected it to. It only shed some light on things I was experiencing. I don’t expect this show to have to heal it’s audience either, I merely hope it lets someone feel heard and understood for just a moment.
Photography by Forest Wolfe