My playwatching quota has plummeted since Tricky was born and that's just pants really, what with me being a playwright and all.
Years ago I remember seeing a postcard that said: "Why are there no great women artists?"
The postcard had a drawing of a woman in a long medievally type frock standing in front of a canvas. She had a paintbrush in one hand which was outstretched towards the canvas and a soup ladle in the other. She also had two kids dragging at her skirt and was unable to see anything much because there was a whopping big saucepan over her head.
I guess, thanks to the Jolly Big Funshop that is infertility, I had plenty of time in the past to put brush to paper and be a 'great woman artist', if only I hadn't spent all that time rolling about on my bed crying because I couldn't get pregnant. And now, look! I've got the baby and I'm complaining that he takes up so much time. Sheesh. Ungrateful or what.
Anyway, it was great seeing this play, Inside Out which was about a mother and a son. The son is funny, witty, arty and has a great relationship with his mother. Except, early in the play we realise there's something wrong. That something turns out to be him having schizophrenia and the play moves through a horrific nine month period with, thankfully for the audience, a glimmer of hope at the end. The writer (Mary Rachel Brown) interviewed carers, health professionals and people living with mental illness and you could hear that in the work, it rang frighteningly true.
I looked around the audience at times and I could see shoulders shaking and hands rubbing at faces and I realised that these were those people, not necessarily the ones the writer interviewed but others, parents and friends who had lost people, and even here and there the lost ones themselves. They were seeing their story, and the story of those they loved.
And for me watching, with my tiny boy tucked up in bed, and for my friend with her even tinier boy, it was also like seeing One Of Your Greatest Maternal Fears playing out on stage, not just the illness but the way it affected the relationship between mother and son, the heartbreaking accusations and abuse, the enormity of patience, the depths of fear.
In this story, this story made up of lots of stories, the mother got her son back. A woman I met a couple of years ago was not nearly so lucky and I will never forget her description of walking the backstreets of the city and finding the sad little corners and nooks where he had sheltered for a few days before moving on. Her only son. Her only child.
After the play we went out and had dinner in a noisy Thai restaurant where we ate squid and betal leaves and drank wine and shouted over the table at each other. It was a good night with lots of talk, not just about the play and what it meant to us, but about writing and mothering and finding a way to bridge the two without being a shitty writer and/or a shitty mother.
It could be an attitude, I decided later. It could be that the word "great" is too much baggage anyway and once you get rid of that baggage, the job's so much easier.
And maybe we just do what we can, and take time off where we can and meet friends where we can and watch as many plays as we can and that will be enough.
But also I thought I might get rid of that big heavy saucepan, replace it with a colander maybe.
Then at least I can peer through the holes.