Sonia Hughes takes us on a journey through the process of creating the latest performance piece with award-winning dancer and choreographer Jo Fong. Neither Here Nor There is a series of conversations that happen over six minutes. Jo, Sonia, (who have been joined by Eddie Ladd and Sara McGaughey for a Welsh translation of the project) ask and answer questions about how it’s all going, big unfathomable questions about the world, small questions about the state of your garden.
Born out of a frustration with superficial connections and the binary nature of public debate, Neither Here Nor There creates the space for deeper conversation and time for reflection. The audience are asked to share something of themselves and to truly listen to others. Serious subjects are introduced with warmth and openness, creating a shared understanding and connection.
Jo Fong, as her name suggests, is not from round here; and I, Sonia Hughes, as my name mis-directs, am not from round here either. But Jo has made her home in Cardiff for over ten years and she loves it here and part of her practice over the last couple of years has been to put down real roots, grow herself a community and literally put seeds in the soil. Jo is a keen permaculture gardener.
Jo and I met in a rehearsal room in Manchester, our task was to try to remember the dances we had done over our lives. Jo has been dancing professionally since her teens, and I have skipped and hopped around the front room and discotheques and family parties all my life. Later those dances became a show called Wallflower made by Quarantine and us and Nic Green and James Monaghan. But before that the reason we were in a rehearsal room was to make a show called Entitled.
Entitlement is huge, isn’t it? It’s a big thing to think about, the word and the meaning has perhaps morphed into the word privilege now; it’s a buzzword, something we should think about and consider. Who is entitled to be heard, seen, considered and who has held the privilege to do so. Where are the places we are entitled to speak and what are we allowed to say.
Speaking is a thing. What exactly do you want to say? Often I find myself rehearsing arguments in my head. I woke up at 3 a.m. to go to the loo the other night and whilst there, I had a terse conversation, in my head, with a neighbour who parked on our driveway and was really cross when I left a polite note saying, sorry this is our garden. I have not said the thing I rehearsed to him. It is still swirling around in my innards making me somewhat sad. There are lots of reasons I should say it out loud to him, there are lots of reasons I cannot.
There is something to do with entitlement in there. It’s murky, it would require quite a long time to talk about feelings of race and womanhood and otherness and property and history and neighbourliness and misunderstanding and facebook messenger and misinterpretation of text and miscommunication and all sorts. Belonging, and how he felt in the morning, and the fact that he works shifts and more and more people live in this small village with more and more cars to commute to where they work out of the village. There’s a lot to go on.
Me and Jo reckon there could be a way to have these conversations. They require a lot of listening, they require the person speaking to get to the end of their sentence un-interrupted for them to discover what actually they do mean. Perhaps the speaker will change their mind by the time they finish speaking, perhaps the listener will hear what the person said. That’s the show really. Speaking and Listening.
I think there was an English lesson called “Speaking and Listening”, and maybe now it’s called “Comprehension”. There are tests in it when you learn a new language. Neither Jo or I speak Welsh, although Jo has made several attempts to learn it. So tomorrow we’re back in the rehearsal room, a different one this time with Eddie Ladd and Sara McGaughey and today we begin to render this whole thing in Welsh. We think it will go well because we think Eddie and Sara are the very people to do it. Hosting the show requires generosity and deftness.
The thing is, we realise it’s more than just translating this into Welsh. Two new people bring their own lives to this. Today we talked about how to start, who to be, what are the politics of second language and fluency in this, farming and saving birds.
Translationese as in Portuguese.
Neither Here Nor There is on at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff from June 7-9