We at Body Politic had the amazing opportunity to work with theatrical director Filiz Ozcan of Komala Collective. She was whisked in by our artistic director, Emma-Jane Greig, to offer theatrical and acting advice on one of the pieces of our triple bill – Father Figurine.
Father Figurine, performed by myself (the son) and Tobi Oduntan (the father), is a piece attempting to tackle the issue of the lack of honest conversation about emotions in the male community; and its consequential effect on mental health. It does so by exploring a fractured relationship between a father and a son. And as we are both Black men, aims to dive into the BAME community and why we still struggle (in comparison to other demographics) to come to terms with mental health illnesses.
Filiz was a delight. The poem and script hybrid I wrote for this piece was a struggle to compose. As any writer, I feared not being clear enough in my message – especially when using the poetic medium. Yet Filiz effortlessly deconstructed every layer at her fingertips and offered in depth advice.
First was the background of our characters. This I thought would be fine. It was covered. I sat down many months ago, with Emma-Jane, to think of every possible finite detail, background, and story to the present characters before writing and bringing the story to life. Yet Filiz’s input was quite the awakening.
“Sit down facing each other, and without breaking eye-contact, recite your lines. How did it feel?”
Granted this isn’t verbatim, but the idea was to get our characters to connect. The connection needs to be there before it can be broken or ruined, as my text suggests. Feelings of awkwardness, rejection, confusion, and tainted affection rose in both of us. Now to explore this further.
“I want you to pull yourself away from your son every time he touches you, as if his hands were fire,” she suggested to Tobi; enticing that raw cringe the father would have in the face of affection. “Isaac, touch him in a way a needy son would, really seek that affection”.
The element of play brought out characteristics I hadn’t thought about. The son, in my eyes, has an air of naïve maturity, and is reserved. The father, a withdrawn introvert with difficulties expressing emotion. But this was at the surface. What was going on internally for both characters? We needed to explore the text not based on the moment the it explores, but based on their entire relationship up to this point. Emotions compressed and hidden. An obvious deduction, glossed over by the immediacy demanded by the text.
The result was a cerebral, fresh-eyed approach to an incredibly complex relationship dynamic. One that elevated the spoken word elements to meet the level of movement.