As we approach opening night and the world premiere of Suzie Miller’s Caress/Ache, director Anthony Skuse talks us through the excitement and myriad of possibilities that a brand-new piece of work holds.
Caress/Ache has a surprising complexity to it: theatrically and intellectually. Suzie Miller establishes different relationships and narrative lines that move in differing time frames, deftly and economically. The writing is elegant and lean. The play’s rhythms hint at the yearning that underscores the play’s action. It always amazes me that printed words on the page can be so potent. They evoke so vividly impressions of life. Of course with a new script there is no prescribed sense of how those impressions are to be conveyed. It isn’t weighed down with stage history or past production stills. Rather a new script presents a myriad of imagined possibilities to be explored and investigated. From reading the play in preparation for rehearsal, I sensed that Caress/Ache had a rich, hidden life waiting to be revealed.
Then toward the end of last year Suzie sat at my kitchen table and read the play to me. That was really the start of the process – listening to Suzie’s voice and hearing the play through her inflections and stresses. My relationship to the words on the page changed as it would again when listening to the actors read them. The complexities became more apparent. I really had to gird my loins, as my mother might have said, to meet the challenges of this piece. So I put myself in the way of things that I sensed might help me unlock the play at a deeper level. I’ve started to stockpile images for rehearsal: Holbein’s Christ Entombed, Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson of Doctor Tulp, photos of deserted asylums and civil rights marches in Iran.
The various stories in the play are linked by a common trope – touch. The characters experience touch in a variety of ways, as delicate, violent, transgressive, protective and eventually restorative. They are touched by ideals, by a work of art. A poem. A political cause. But whether it is the accidental touch of a stranger or the much-anticipated brush of a lover’s figure, the energy generated round the slightest zone of contact changes lives. When the narrative lines converge we are hurtled toward a final embrace.
I’m excited to be working with a playwright who is as open and generous with her work as Suzie is. I want to thank everyone working on the piece: Lee Lewis, the staff at Griffin, and the cast and crew of Caress/Ache who are all ready to make the leap of faith a new play requires. Caress/Ache has the emotional scope and depth of vision that seems to be at odds with the confines of Griffin’s tiny stage corner. It’s a great challenge, one that is as demanding as it is liberating.
Anthony Skuse, director