Hannah Sullivan                                 writer and artist



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SEPTEMBER 2015

Kicking it up and letting it settle (making a show about anger)




Over the last year I have been trying to get my head and my heart around the emotion of anger, with a vision of asking an audience to sit with me, and spend some time with a possible representation of this particular emotion. During that year I have come across many inspiring texts, films and songs, but somehow I have held on to this extract from a happy ditty of a folk song;

‘What a pity it is to tease me to sing
When it does not lay in my power to do such a thing
but since you have teased me to try’

I started to sing it to my own tune. I sung it over and over again. Singing it higher and louder each time, I would reach a pitch of strength where I am full of force and noise, my voice would soar high and hit the hard notes, but as I keep going my voice starts to break and fail, it no longer carries and it starts to hurt. For me, these lyrics and this singing task are expressing something complicated about the emotion of anger. In order to be angry something has to provoke you, but before that you have to allow yourself to be provoked. Taking notice, caring, listening, watching, so you can see when you or others are being dismissed. But then the toxic visions that our anger stimulates, the impact that we wish to have, may in reality be unachievable, making us feel disempowered and immobile. But if you push by this, allow yourself to be fully motivated by the anger that has surfaced and keep moving with it then suddenly what felt unachievable before starts to become achieved. Dangerous, yes, but this level of anger can be extremely positive and affect change. But to regulate this ‘level’ is not very straight forward, I am not sure that we set our own dials like that. Which is why an urgent surge of anger can overspill into something inarticulate, chaotic and destructive to the self as well as everything in its surroundings…which could be perceived as a weak flailing animal threatening to ‘why I outta…why I outta!?!’…or maybe, just maybe, an eradication of everything because it is so totally and utterly…wrong? In your opinion…now I feel like I am in very dark woods…Anger, like other strong emotions, is an extreme clarity of feeling. It drives us to correct what we believe to be wrong. Which leads to the question, what is wrong, what the hell is wrong with everyone??! When I start to get angry about one thing, it tends to spiral very quickly into an undirected rage at the whole of humanity, and then I feel ridiculous and defeated and, like, maybe I just shouldn’t think about any of this. And there we have it, a full circle of disempowered to empowered and back again, the plight of anger which I see in that little ditty of a folk tune that I keep singing over and over again.

At this moment, I am half way, of maybe two thirds, through a process of making a show. I have been fed with a lot of information and opinion, excavated my own experiences, answered questions and listened back, felt something change, felt different from where I started, I have sang and marched and shook bells and kept quiet. Now, I am taking a pause, I am making a plan so that I can finish this piece with my dramaturg and costume designer, together. I am not scribbling in my notebook, or rehearsing my lines, I am letting it settle.


__With thanks to Alice Tatton Brown, Annelies Henney, Lou Cope, Sue MacClaine, Jo Hellier, Rachael Clerke, Ria Hartley, Dr Misri Dey, Dr Thomas Dixon, Dr Anna Bull, Dr Aurelien Mondon, Martha King, Shoreditch Town Hall, Bristol Ferment, Flare Festival and all of Interval for helping me get this far.

For more thoughts on anger, you can buy ANGER by Hannah Sullivan and Joanna Waterhouse here