I’ve just finished watching the last episode of The Principal, SBS’s mini-series set in a troubled boys’ school in Sydney. The denouement between a father and son (without giving too much away) was incredibly moving, founded as it was on the desperate need of each to connect – a need too often squashed by pride, ideals of respectability and fear. I was struck once more by the violence or hopelessness that can result from an inability to connect and to let others connect to us.
Connection seems to be a recurring theme for me this year.
A few months ago I played April White in John Patrick Shanley’s Savage in Limbo at Q44 Theatre in Melbourne. Our explorations in rehearsal illuminated for us how each of the characters are driven to their extreme behaviour by a frantic drive to forge meaningful connections with somebody – anybody. “I’ll be friends with anyone who wants to be friends,” April says, and she tries, but she doesn’t really know how to, because she’s a drunk, and she’s terrified, and anyone she lets in abandons her.
One of the cast introduced the Gotye song Heart’s A Mess in rehearsal and it became something of an anthem:
Your heart’s mess // You won’t admit to it //
It makes no sense // But I’m desperate to connect //
And you can’t live like this
The reality is we can’t live without connection. It’s why all the characters in Savage are “in limbo” – they are literally failing to live their lives because they can’t find a way to let others in.
This year I’ve also been involved in trialling an event that relies on connection, a storytelling night called Inspiring Women. Born out of the idea that much of our daily media seem to be platforms for hearing stories about or by men, a group of fellow female actors got together to create a forum for telling and listening to stories about women, reclaiming a space for our own voices.
What became amazingly apparent from the very first event was that the act of telling and listening to these stories created powerful connections between the women in the storytelling circle. We ask our attendees to try to listen without judgement and speak without apology. The result is that the channels of connection open up and flourish. I never fail to leave the evening with a renewed sense of my community, and of the deep nourishment of the soul that connecting to others in a truthful and open manner produces.