Sally Potter

To Tell the Truth

I was touched to receive some messages of reassurance as "comments" after my blog about insomnia. It made me wonder whether being truthful about the feelings of doubt and vulnerability involved in any act of creation, usually hidden -- of necessity, if you are leading a large group of people -- behind a facade of directorial togetherness, is what allows people to connect with the process.

Honesty is a complicated word. Feelings are not necessarily a guide to the objective reality of how something is going. I have learned over the years to recognise signs of apparent "breakdown" in performers (i.e. tears, frustration etc) as the necessary consequence of shedding the habits and defence mechanisms which lead to certain predictable rigidities or clich├ęd ways of being and moving in performance. Just as an individual who habitually holds their shoulders up, when gently released from this defensive muscular pattern, may well suddenly be flooded with feelings that the tension originally blocked, a performer -- when coaxed out of familiar habits that have helped them survive the stress and exposure of a life on stage or in front of the camera -- will suddenly feel naked, alone, confused, and as if they are "not doing anything". I welcome these moments, which are often accompanied by tears. This has happened several times during the last week and the work that follows often has a beautiful clarity to it.

I too have these moments. In the last week I had shed many tears in private as my own ways of doing and being have been repeatedly challenged. It is not that I have been criticised by others: on the contrary, most of the people around me have been delightfully appreciative. But I am aiming high and deep, and am a ruthlessly stern critic of my own work. The harsh words I whisper in my own ear late at night are words I try to welcome, as a Zen student learns to welcome the blows of his master. This kind of pain is a form of awakening in which it becomes possible to locate the truth.

Back to Listing