"Three Women"/ "Trois Femmes"
by Clara Silber Harris
drawing on certain elements in the lives of three women / tissée autour de trois personnages:
Antigone, Clytemnestra and Gudrun Ensslin
Photo from "Three Women"
I work with the Archives and so I am constantly dipping back into the source of Roy Hart's approach to theatre: total engagement with the voice and physicality of a character in order to give maximum expression to that role.
Last summer, after many years of simpler more age-appropriate roles, I decided I wanted to engage with some rawer energies as in my early years with the Roy Hart Theatre when I worked on Antigone. At that time, it was important for to me to work this young idealist and “she” came to play an important role for me during the tough years of the late 70s. Through the years, she and I have kept an eye on each other.
When it came to summer 2013, I thought “I can't stay at Malérargues and hear all the workshop voices, I need to hear my voice too.” And so Antigone emerged again. Not this time as a young woman playing an even younger woman but as an old(er) woman reconnecting with that youth.
As a theatrical exercise and challenge, I chose two other characters to play. Or perhaps they chose me. Two strong women. First Clytemnestra, who defended her rights by refusing to submit to the heinous acts and infidelities of her husband, Agamemnon. She killed him. Whether she killed him on her own or not I don't mention, mythological characters allow space for interpretation.
Even my final character of the trio, Gudrun Ensslin, who lived during my own life time, posed questions of interpretation particularly related to the some what mysterious circumstances of her death. With Andreas Bader and Ulrike Meinhof, she was a founder of the Red Army Faction in 1970, She too was an idealist, their first organised protests were against the Shah of Persia's state visit to Germany. Unfortunately the rally went wrong, someone got killed and their movement escalated into violence.
In the piece, I introduce the three women's attitudes to life and their engagement with it, obviously unique in each case but each has a wish to make sense of it and know what trace it will leave for posterity.
For each of the characters, I have used excerpts of text from known sources : Jean Anouilh and Christine Brückner, in particular. I have threaded and woven lines from their texts together with my own writings. I have introduced sounds and song and movements as they emerged. I have kept décor and props to an absolute minimum in order to allow my actions to set the scene – always a challenge
I approach the second section of “Three Women” in a different way. I use paintings of Edward Hopper's to relive these three characters in a more modern context. Here I have written the stories myself. I question how myths are made and what is our individual potential for myth making.
Last summer in the afternoons, Studio 1 was a haven of peace and calm during the busy, hot summer. It became my space for exploration, for play. And it still works well as an intimate space for performing this piece.
Without looking out of my window,
I can see
I can hear
I can …
And so begins “Three Women”.
.............................................. ......... .......