An Evening With Eve
MADNESS VS MAGNIFICENCE: An Evening With Eveadipiscing
“My madness as it seems, is a logical response to my living arrangement.”
This time last week – instead of caring for my children – I was visiting Eve.
Eve Langley, that is.
Sure, she may be a spirited, even ‘eccentric perhaps’ Australian-New Zealand novelist and poet who died in 1974
she was very much alive on stage at the Brisbane Powerhouse. Dynamic duo, Margi Brown Ash and son, Travis Ash shared Eve’s expedition in a second season of the Award-winning performance, Eve.
As I am a mother of two gorgeous humans (a two-year-old adventurer and a four-week-old milkaholic), I was beyond excited to be leaving the house, albeit in a rushed-wet-hair state.
The play was an impressive collaborative effort – directed and co-devised by Leah Mercer, co-devised by Daniel Evans and written and co-devised by mastermind, Margi Brown Ash. Eve’s life story is revealed through prose, monologue, and narration that is set against a soundscape provided by the talented Travis Ash on piano, piano accordion and vocals. Babies crying pierce the melodies, reminding Eve and the audience of the unrelenting disposition of responsibilities and reality.
Renowned for her powerful (and playful) therapeutic work with actors, I first met Margi in my early twenties when I thought she might magically have the answer to that illusive question, ‘Who am I?’.
In case you’re wondering, she only ever had more questions for me.
But she did teach me to ‘find comfort in the discomfort’ of not knowing.
And, like so many artists, I have loved and appreciated Margi and her work ever since!
Importantly, the play highlights the conflict between being a woman and being an artist.
It traces the demise (or rise?) of a troubled writer who dreams of escaping the ordinariness of domesticity. She has a deranged desire to become the great Oscar Wilde. Oscar seduces her with the wonder of words. She even changes her name by deed poll to be able to accept criticism from publishing houses with more valour. Dressed in a dishevelled suit and oversized men’s shoes for the duration of the performance, Costume Designer, Bev Jensen, sends a powerful message about maintaining the mundane tasks of life amidst creative pursuit.
Eve lives with the shadow of her estranged husband and her fugitive children, who are forever climbing the walls and fireplace (quite literally), in her mental absence. Her husband tells her she is a “jumbled up mess of a woman”. However, she believes her “only social crime was having two children and another on the way”. Her shambled house mirrors her disordered mind. Set Designer, Aaron Barton aptly adorns the one-room living room set with empty photo frames, an old go-cart that serves as an office, paper balls of work that once-was, and manuscripts piled into a pram like a baby.
Relationships fracture and reality quickly crumbles around her as she spends more of her time hunched over a typewriter in her go-cart office. Encapsulated in her office, she enters the all-consuming world of her mind. She is restrained in a tiny space in the corner of her living room, but somehow free.
Utterly engrossed in the toing and froing of her own manic mind, the audience too, is transported to the world within an artist.
She is internally conflicted – caught somewhere between…life and art, domesticity and creativity, mediocracy and magnificence.
It doesn’t take long to realise that this story isn’t about the journey of one woman.
It’s the song (and cry) of all of us; every woman who is disempowered by a dead-end day job and twilights as a photographer.
Every mother who wants to change the world through painting beautiful art but changes nappies for a living instead.
It’s for anyone who has ever tried to pacify a screaming child, red-cheeked and snotty in a shopping centre and wished for something ‘more’.
Daringly different, Eve craves creativity and success like the heroes of literature who have gone before her – Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickenson and of course, Oscar Wilde.
She feels connected to them – more so than with real world.
And so begins her unravelling.
She goes about trying to keep it together – a house, a husband and children, while working as an author. Eve knows she can’t keep a house and children. Chillingly, she appears only to love them as much as her work, when she is in a purple haze of Metho-drinking.
The silent seduction continues. Riddled with curiosity, she is crippled by her own creativity with harrowing results for her home, health, and heart.
Despite this, Eve’s spirit endures. She shines through ‘silent screams’ as depicted so hauntingly in the closing scenes. The performance leaves the audience wondering if creativity is a gift or a curse.
As a mother and a writer, I often feel like my toddler is climbing the walls while I finish a sentence…a paragraph…an article.
I curse myself for not ‘stopping’ the soundtrack in my head to connect with my inquisitive toddler as she plays make-believe and utters words from her teddy’s mouth or dances to the Kmart ad on TV.
But, it’s hard to stop. To turn ‘off’.
I don’t know if I know how.
Because by ‘flicking the switch’ are we putting an end to who we truly are?
Perhaps we are better off putting creativity on ‘mute’ while we tend to life’s chores.
For many though, mute is not an option.
And so it becomes…
Mother vs Artist.
Art Vs Life.
Or can art and life co-exist? Can we be successful as both a mother and an artist?
Perhaps it’s a case of the chicken and the egg.
Eve causes us to question if we, as women, are wired for domesticity.
By choosing art, are we loosing?
Can we have it all – a home and a family, while living the artistic life we have imagined?
I say, ‘YES!’
Getting to know Eve via Margi and her team, heralds a uniquely tender, confronting and contemplative experience.
Eve’s story is testament to the fortitude and fragility of women both mothers and makers, doers and dreamers.
After the show, I arrive home and am greeted by yesterday’s unfolded laundry strewn across the bed. Thankfully, there are no manuscripts in the baby’s pram. At least not tonight. Phew!
I see my children’s heavy heads filled with dreams. Saliva stained pillow slips. Gentle human purring. I wonder if they realise THEY were once the material of my dreams.
In the silence that stills my soul, there is solace and strength.
I watch the gentle inhale and exhale of their tiny chests.
A perfect pattern of artistic wonder.
And I too exhale. Life is good.
Until tomorrow my darlings, goodnight.
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Veronica McDermott is a specialist Creative Industries Writer and Owner of Words My Way. Based in Brisbane, she helps busy creatives say what they want to say – only better! When she is not behind a laptop or in front of a Drama class, she is probably hunting down rainforests with her husband and brood in tow. Connect with Veronica on Facebook.