Skye Loneragan’s theatre show, Though This Be Madness, tells a powerful, poignant and funny story about a recovering mum who is attempting to tell many tales of sisterhood struggles with mental health in the midst of constant interruptions from her new-born baby.
Though This Be Madness was set to tour Scotland as part of our 2020 festival. When the tour had to be postponed due to the Covid-19 lockdown, SMHAF commissioned Skye to create a film version, which premiered as a series of episodes in autumn 2020.
Two years on, the tour now opens at the Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, on 16 Feb, and continues throughout the year. Scroll down for a full list of tour dates.
How are you feeling about finally getting to tour Though This Be Madness across Scotland?
Like it isn’t actually going to happen, until I’m right there in front of an audience in three dimensions
During lockdown you made a film version of the show for SMHAF’s online programme? What was it like reimagining it in that way? And can you talk about why you decided to do it as a series of episodes?
I really wrestled with doing what felt like a ‘selfie’, recording myself on my mobile phone, talking to my own face, alone… playing it back to see if it made sense, doing it again. It felt very much me, myself and I, but looking back I am so glad I did it, as it captured something I couldn’t in the live show, and it truly reflected the Covid context and the continual fractured narrative of trying to work-from-home. There’s a lot of tech threads running through the show (paranoia about tech, the truth about tech, what we know because of tech, how we connect through tech), and in that way filming on the phone, and in the Land of Lounge Room, felt fitting. It was also very pressured in terms of time, I would have maybe an hour on my own to snatch something I could send on to Roddy to edit, so there wasn’t any rehearsal time or space. As I’m not a film-maker, I felt a little constrained by all the quality I wasn’t able to put into equipment, method and mastery.
I decided to make episodes because the play is very much in chapters, all of them flagged by a title, scribbled on a post-it note, a memory aid which the sleep-deprived recovering mother needs to ‘stay on the ball’. These chapters are not chronological – there is a line in the play, “the story doesn’t always wrap itself around a beginning, middle and end, we are not tracing a trajectory or a line in this life, we are threading a circle….” and the episodes felt important in highlighting this sphere of storytelling, as opposed to a linear narrative told as if life is all cause and effect.
Has the meaning of the show changed for you since you last performed it live? Your daughter is older now, for example?
I think the meaning of the show has somehow come full circle, almost dug itself deeper for me since I last performed it live. Partly to do with Covid, and being tucked beside my partner (literally working aside each other in a lounge room), and caring for my partner, and home-not-schooling, but crucially this phrase, “Once Upon a Time- I Don’t Have Time” so perfectly describes so many juggles made as a mum, and daughter and sister and wife. My own daughter is older, and starting school this year, and there are now different reasons it might be hard to tell a tale around parenthood. She told me I should have asked her before taking her favourite unicorn toy to my “poetry to practice”. And she’s right. I’ve finally been able to see my family again now and the experiences that feed this play are still very much live.
How can the theatre world better support performers with young children?
Could touring take the primary carer away for fewer “sleeps”? We’ve done a slow tour on this show for that very reason, not being able to be away from your role as mum/dad/parent for weeks on end, and for large chunks of time. So, one or two venues/places a month we are doing, across a year. That has a knock-on effect on contributions to climate change, which we can mitigate against in various ways, but first we need a shift in the expectation that touring weeks on end is the norm?
Also, let’s make caring responsibilities the ‘norm’ and then if someone doesn’t need flexibility in their rehearsal schedule and timings, they can flag it and adjustments can be made accordingly? The question is always who does the caring, or the childcare, so you can work…why can’t we make the rehearsal room more inclusive of others and littles without compromising focus…is that possible?
As a playwright/poet, I’ve wanted to apply for so many writers’ retreats and not done so because I know I won’t be able to get a whole two weeks, or a month, or even a whole seven days away from parental and caring responsibilities. And for single parents, it just isn’t possible without extensive extended family support (not all parents have grandparents to depend upon, or grandparents close by) so can we be more realistic about supporting experienced makers who happen to be parents by offering solitary time at a time that they can manage? In the last six months I’ve had two days I can remember in which I had a chunk of two hours on my own, two hours of solitary time….can we offer more nurturing opportunities for solitary time and creativity that don’t require an inheritance, or a salary, or extended family financial support, or the terror of unemployment?
I watch my daughter watching me rehearse and I wonder what she is thinking. I see her excitement in playing a computer game her father has found where she has to survive in a forest and I wonder what she is learning about life. Exposure to creative processes are integral parts of a practice, perhaps, in a world where parenthood is not silenced by your vocation, but woven into it.
What are you working on next?
I’ve been working on a fusion, a film-poem with visual artist Adam Sebire, called You May Lose Your Fingerprint (which the NTS screened a draft of for their Dear Planet day at COP26). It was inspired by my partner’s chemo journey and what climate change may require of us as humans. I am developing my new play The Turmeric Trail written with support from Imaginate, and a new solo idea that I call May Contain Nuts, a comedy taking the form of a content warning in which I include the time I had to see a psychiatrist to prove to a commissioning editor that my father’s schizophrenia, fictionalised in a play, was an accurate / authentic one, once I had made it up. Currently looking for the space/time to improvise that one into reality.
Wed 16 Feb, 8pm & Thu 16 Feb, 10.30am*, Lemon Tree, Aberdeen
Use code MADNESS241 for 2 for 1 tickets!
Fri 18 Mar, 7.30pm, Burgh Hall, Dunoon
Sat 19 Mar, 8pm**, Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock
Thu 21 Apr, 7.30pm & Fri 22 **April, 10.30am*, Eden Court Theatre, Inverness
Sat 21 May, 10.30am*/7.30pm** & Sun 22 May, 7.30pm, The Studio, Capital Theatre, Edinburgh
Thu 23 June, 2pm*/8pm, Heart of Hawick , Hawick
Fri 24 June, 8pm & Sat 25 June, 10.30am*, The Catstrand, New Galloway
Sat 25 June, 7.30pm*, The Stove Network, Dumfries
Thu 14 July 7.30pm, Mull Theatre, Tobermory
**BSL Interpreted performance. SLI Yvonne Waddell