Some personal reflections on the creation of “Rain” by Sarah Lockwood, Drop Bear Theatre
I decided I really wanted to make a work for babies when my son Silas was about two months old. I knew from the start that it was going to be a work that was as much for parents as it was for babies. I had so much support when my baby was born, from family and friends. But after about two months, I realised that we hadn’t marked the occasion of his birth in any ritualised way. There had been no "rite of passage." I was flung into the mechanical world of nappy changing, feeding, cleaning, while simultaneously trying to remind myself to drink in the beauty and wonder of my little boy. After a while I realised I was the most full of love and thanks for my baby when I was sitting in a community of loving adults. At a lecture by Robin Grille at Artplay last year, he spoke of the calm that engulfs both parent and child “when they are embedded in a larger parenting net”. I needed to celebrate my baby with other adults. He needed to feel connected to me, but not only in isolation from our wider support network. I felt more intimate with my baby, when I wasn’t feeling alone.
In the first year of a baby’s life, I have found that many parents are searching for places to have rich and meaningful conversations with people, and to find spaces to connect with their child and their own humanity. As one mother said:
“I think that the first year of your baby’s life is a spiritual and emotional rollercoaster...Time spent with your baby can be hugely confronting. It is a whole lot of things- both good and bad. It is hard work, it is exhausting, it is beautiful and eye opening. But no one warned me how confronting it would be. It makes me aware of aspects of my personality that I used to ignore. It forces me to think deeply about my own humanity, my place in the world, reconciling who I am in this new role.”
-was safe for adults and babies and encouraged intimacy.
-was a place that could mark a moment, celebrate life and the connection between carer and child.
-held the possibility of a transformative moment between adult and baby.
So, these were the questions we sat with at the beginning of our creative process, and I pose to you, dear reader, as we ponder the kind of spaces we create for babies and carers:
Which spaces leave room for the possibility of a transformative connection?
What spaces do we find transformative and what do we mean by transformative?
Which spaces are invitational and why?
I ask these questions now because I think we can only start to create a welcome and transformative space for babies, when we understand what we ourselves find invitational and transformative. When we think about which places have changed and shaped our own lives. In this instance, while creating "Rain", the collaborators were aiming to create a space that held the possibility of a transformative moment of connection between an adult and a baby. We wanted to engage all of the senses, to give adults a chance to start thinking with their other senses, and watch and learn from their pre-verbal babies. A quote from Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto inspired us on this journey. He encourages us to:
close our eyes to see,
smell to listen,
dance to levitate..."
Neto points to a gift that babies bring us; one that we were struck by again and again along this journey. Babies help us to start to unravel our practiced pathways and perceptions. They can help us to feel more comfortable in a state of “not knowing”. In this gentle, multi-sensory place, we hoped there would be enough room for this "unravelling" to start to happen for adults, and that babies would feel loved, special and connected. We hoped that this space could both encourage and celebrate intimacy through a communal experience.