And Then She Ate Me: Working from Home
Performer lilian ross-millard reflects on ring o' rosie's creative process, and the experience of developing "and then she ate me" while living in the house it will be performed in.
For the last month, I have been living in a theatre. Kind of.
Ring O’ Rosie Theatre is a collective made up of Anne White (our director), and two performers, Miranda Jones, and myself, Lily Ross-Millard. A month ago, Miranda and I moved into our Peterborough digs (she is based in Montreal, and myself in Toronto). The North End home we moved into was also where we would create and perform our new play, And Then She Ate Me. Many people dream about working from home. I’d like to think we take the term ‘working from home’ to the next level.
Our collective makes theatre the way university students make dinner: we look in our cupboards, scrap the recipe book and do the best we can with what we have. In the same way, Ring O’ Rosie scraps the traditional script and builds theatre around objects, songs, and texts we find ready at hand. The result: intimate, visceral, playful theatrical experiences.
Many people have been asking us, ‘why Peterborough?’ We wanted to make a play about grandmothers, family memory, and mourning in domestic spaces – a show which clearly required a house as its performance space. The truth is that it seemed like Peterborough was one of the only places where we could afford to do the show. The house was– very generously – made available to us by the Pearson family. Although economic factors brought us to Peterborough, our show and our creation process has been hugely influenced by our surroundings.
We believe that when you appreciate a space or object (because you are aware of its financial, sentimental, or utilitarian value as well as its aesthetic value), it causes you to look at the object with heightened mindfulness. When making theatre, our collective asks, “what else could this space/object do for me? What are the most effective and interesting ways of using it?” In our Aberdeen house, we discover the wonder in the everyday, and build spectacular images using common household spaces and objects. It is immensely satisfying when we figure out how to incorporate an object into a scene that alters the way you look at a space. For example, today we put a lamp under a table with a tablecloth over top, and suddenly a theatrical space was defined.
Sensitivity to our environment is key. Even though our sites are sometimes informed by cold and unromantic factors (such as a tight budget), we always seek a personal relationship with our environment. For example, I learned quite recently that towards the end of WWI, my great grandmother, ‘Nannie’ Isobel Panter, was placed as a Barnardo girl at a farm in Peterborough after she was orphaned. Personally, this discovery has given me a rich context with which to explore the themes of grandmothers and memory. By remaining sensitive to our surroundings, the theatre we make maintains its relevancy.
If you come to see And Then She Ate Me, you will experience a play made from ingredients like biographical stories, oranges, pick-up sticks, Erik Satie, jello, cucumber recipes, and a well-loved house. We hope this multi-sensory experience will evoke feelings of familiarity, comfort, the uncanny, and the dizzying experience of remembering.
The three of us have been overwhelmed by the support which the city of Peterborough has offered to us. We cannot thank you enough. We hope to see you at the show!