V NEW PLAY
Ann Donald asks Claire Dowie, ‘why be a mother when it means Leaking From Every Oriﬁce?’
‘My female friends had told me that giving birth was like shitting a melon . . . The truth is I don‘t want to be a mother. i don‘t want to be a 24-hour catering service — Meals On Heels. My brain will curdle and I’ll get stretchmarks on my mind.‘
Judging by this extract from Foetal Attraction by the author Kathy Lette. performer Claire Dowie isn't the only woman alive who has refused to embrace the Penelope Leach school ofthought that childbirth is a truly life-enriching experience. Dowie has decided to join the anti Earth Mother battalion in her latest show delicately entitled Leaking Front Every Oriﬁce — an unexpurgated and comic account of hormones. sex. pregnancy. childbirth and motherhood.
it was, in fact. a burst condom that gave Dowie not only her child but the inspiration to write what she describes as ‘a baby avoidance exercise‘. Given Dowie's regular forays into the jungle of gender and sexual politics (with ﬁlms such as Come Out, It Rained. Went Back In Again and the play Death and Dancing) together with the largely autobiographical nature ofthe piece (Dowie is a lesbian currently in a straight relationship with a gay man) one can only expect a slightly unconventional look at motherhood.
Being pregnant seems to have been the easy part. As Dowie explains, ‘lt was amazing. i was in such a good mood for nine months.’ But then came the tricky part of birth and responsibility for the bundle
ofjoy who is now one year old. and whose presence doesn‘t seem to have converted its wryly cynical mother. ‘The responsibility of parenthood ruins your life.‘ she states. ‘l keep waiting for this fulfilment to overtake me but it hasn‘t happened. l‘m quite miffed really as I wanted to be proved wrong.‘
in Leaking. Dowie clearly feels she is on a mission to expose the cover-up generated by millions of mothers whom she feels have stayed complieitly silent about the whole hideous experience. As she explained in another interview. the show's title encapsulates not only the term ‘femininity‘ but a woman's destiny. ‘Women leak more than men.‘ she begins. ‘Your groin is destroyed. You wake up in the morning with your breasts swimming in milk. You cry all the time. The book. say you get the “baby blues" after four days; they don‘t say when it stops. They tell you to have a perm and wear make-up. But you‘re supposed to be fulfilled. So why do you need a morale booster.”
What Dowie has tried to do is draw upon this raw material and fashion it into 90 minutes of her self— styled ‘stand-up theatre‘. Reportedly swamped with rattlineg good one-liners. she herself describes it as
'the most light-hearted of all the stuff I‘ve done .
As a performer who seems to have ‘sexual politics' tattooed across her forehead when it comes to subject matter. doesn't she ever feel the need to tackle other aspects of modern life? ‘Yeah. I do want to get away frotn it.‘ she sighs. ‘but it's my bughear. I‘ve always kicked strongly against what a man should be and what a woman should be. ever since I can remember.‘
She admits that there are dangers in over-stepping the mark in terms of catharsis-influenced theatre
i becoming soap—box politics. But Dowie denies any
Citizen Smith attempts to change the world. ‘1 still feel the need to highlight sexual stereotyping and conformity.‘ she says. ‘beeause we‘re not halfway to anywhere yet. But at the same time I want to be funny and thoughtful without heating a drum.‘
And to end. does our alternative Earth Mother have any words ofwisdom for potential mums out there? ‘Yes. everyone should try it and live to regret it.‘ she finishes with a droll laugh. (Ann Donald)
I .eaking From Every ()rijice written and performed by Claire Dowie is at The Traverse Theatre from Wed 22—- Sun 26 June.
mum- Miller light
One would never suspect that lurking behind that rich, northern timbre from the Tetley teabag and Allinson loat adverts, isananwhohasaiso been described as ‘tallor Inade’ tor the lewd and lecherous role at the Miller in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. . Brian Clover, ex-wrestler, and actor tor the last 25 years, clearly relishes his bawdy assignment in portraying a character he describes as being ‘one oi the greatest lucky buggers’ in English literature. ‘The Miller is always expurgated tro- shows,’ Clover explains, ‘which Immediately attracted me, because actually it’s an anti-clerical tale by Chaucer with lots oi kissing ot bottoms and sticking pokers up bottoms.’ The inclusion oi the Mill» in this
very much updated version is due to Michael Bogdanov's boisterous adaptation of the 14th century original. This is Chaucer a la 1994 with the crude and colourtul tales being told in the form of an annual
Ceoitrey Chaucer Story-telling Competition. The local vicar is Master of Ceremonies and Clover is the local dustman intent on wrecking the proceedings with his insistence that the audience be allowed to hear the 2.
Glover applauds Bogdanov’s decision to set the work in a modern framework, but as an ext-English teacher himseli he is aware of the loss in terms of poetic language. ‘We got rid of all that opaque language so that there are no barriers with the audience with comprehension and brought it bang up to date with contemporary references to Alan Clark and my Allinson loai catch-phrase. You do lose a lot of the poetry but it’s a sacrifice that you’ve got to make tor accessibility.’
And what would the respected man of letters make of this wickedly iunny version? ‘I think Chaucer would applaud us, ’ replies Glover with his loud Yorkshire laugh, ‘We’re bringing a great English classic to lite.’ (Ann Donald)
The Canterbury Tales is at The King’s Theatre, Edinburgh from June 27—July
48 The List 17—30 June 1994