Natasha Morgan Topics List

Natasha Morgan Topics List taken from her interview with Susan Croft, 18th July 2007, recorded by Arlan Harris.
Video and audio extracts edited by Jessica Higgs.

Early Years
Born Wembley1945 of Jewish Communist, highly political parents
Influence of knowledge of Auschwitz in childhood
Grandparents from the Ukraine, settled in East End
Grandfather opened East End’s first cinema ‘the Labo’
Move to Willesden
Father worked for Daily Worker, involvement in anti-fascism
Father’s practical support for political activism e.g lay-out on 7 Days
Stalin and Hungary
Tradition of party groups, marches

Harvest Road School, Kensal Rise
Willesden County Grammar
Father’s success as poster designer, then advertising agent
Family move to Woldingham in Surrey’s greenbelt
‘Bilateral’ school in Oxted
School plays
Woldingham Players – NM plays Anne Frank
First dates, writing diary – ‘Les Garcons dans ma Vie’
Begins writing and reading poetry – desire to ‘speak to’ mother
Influence of mother’s illness with pleurisy at NM’s birth, sense of abandonment
NM’s need for exposure
Inspiration of English teacher in her going to Oxford

St Hughs College
Encounters with class divide
Playing Lechery in Faustus with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor
Turns down the film and an Equity card
Contemporaries at Oxford included: Bob Peck, Diana Quick, Maria Aitken, Marina Warner
Interest in experimental film, Drury Lane Arts Lab

Experimental theatre and early work
Involvement in Phantom Captain with Neil Hornick, influence of work of Joe Chaikin, physical work, opening at Oval House
Performances at Ambiance Lunchtime Theatre, Queensway and at Arts Lab
Influence of film: Portrait of Jason

Trying to discover the sort of theatre she felt passionately about ‘What is the
theatre I want to be in?’
Work with Naftali Yavin, encounter work  – suicides and breakdown in the group of those who couldn’t cope with the work
Doing Repertory Theatre at Exeter: The Ghost Train, works with Bruce Myers (later with Peter Brook)
Position of women in theatre – no sense of a voice or camaraderie
Market research for living
Living circumstances: a garret above father’s South St office in Mayfair then Marina Warner’s room in Hereford Street – a series of bedsits
Marketing ‘Dymo’ tapes – NM corners the University and Gallery market

The Women’s Liberation Movement
Influence of Mai Zetterling’s film The Girls and ensuing audience discussion – as women take it over
Meeting Sheila Rowbotham –bond of being two-timed by the same boyfriend. Lunch, the following day at Barnsbury Street – start of London Women’s Liberation Workshop
NM at Speakers Corner speaking on women
International Socialist women
Move Sheila Rowbotham’s house, Montague Road Dalston, HQ of East London Women’s Liberation Workshop
Involvement with night cleaners’ campaign
Consciousness Raising Groups
Selma James and the Politics of Housework
Involvement with women from Grosvenor Ave, Angry Brigade, met through Tai Chi group, Tina Keane, Jane Grant. Discussion about political action on a different level

Contradictions of also working part-time for father’s Park Lane ad agency
Description of Grosvenor Ave Situationists – two women become lovers as a political and ‘natural decision’ – a huge thing – no doors on the lavatories, deliberately – ‘intention of openness’
Midge Mackenzie and NM involvement in Miss World protest with Victoria Group
NM questioned by Press about a bomb blast at protest
Arrests at protest
Collective living situation. Fellow members include Mark Carlin (Cinema Action), Nigel Fountain (International Socialists, Black Dwarf), Sheila Rowbotham, Amanda Sebestyen (feminist and writer)
NM’s involvement in New Left Review special issue on women’s issues

Cultural and Political Influences and Divisions
Political influences:Dialectics of Liberation c1969), Black Power, Roundhouse, Situationists – awareness of their possibilities but all male-run
Cultural influences: Peace, love, psychedelia, drugs, Arts Lab, Jerry Garcia, Jimi Hendrix
Work of Tina Keane, especially light shows
Birthday present of pure mescaline opens NM’s mind in another way
Attempt to put together political, emotional ‘not shutting the door on the Garden of Eden’
Hitching with Sheila Rowbotham to Majorca. Their divided reactions to community centred round Robert Graves, Santana.

Involvement with Spare Rib and different sections of women’s movement
Attitudes to sexuality and NM’s disagreement with women’s movement Puritanism and rejection of penetrative sex.
Hierarchies of oppression
Mica Nava (married to Jose Pepe Nava of The People Show) member of Belsize Park women’s group
Involvement in Eleanor Stephen film on sexuality for C4
Friendship with Midge Mackenzie and NM’s part in her TV series Shoulder to Shoulder [on women’s suffrage movement]

NM has a late abortion because of her ambivalence
Wrote throughout the process and recorded conversations with women on the ward
It becomes basis for a Women’s Theatre Group piece toured to hospitals followed by discussion
NM’s first use of personal life material in theatre

Carte Blanche
Appearance in Ken Tynan’s follow-up to Oh Calcutta!, directed by Clifford Williams
‘a new way of thinking about sexuality’
Involvement of French director and cast of all-male transvestite show at the Roundhouse, La Grande Eugene
NM as pierrot in white satin page-boy suit
Quality of writing and other performers also as friends
Audience – includes brown mackintosh types

Living situation
Flat in Clarendon Road, Women’s Pioneer Housing Trust
Living in Shepherd’s Bush with Dusty Hughes, father of her daughter and others including Jonathan and Sally Meades and their twins, actor Clive Merrison.
Birth of Lily
Introduced to Mike Figgis through Dusty

Further involvement with Women’s Movement
Discovery of Erin Pizzey’s provision of information on London Women’s Liberation Workshop given to police

Grosvenor Square demonstration with Angry Brigade women, dressed in ‘bovver gear’, plan to
through bricks through Bunny Club windows and their subsequent arrests. NM dresses more smartly and thinks their plan naive.
Seeing Jane Arden’s Holocaust [aka A New Communion for Freaks, Prophets and Witches] at Open Space

NM’s in The Other Side of the Underneath, Arden’s film
Cast members included Sheila Allen, Liz Custer, Liz Merington, Penny Slinger
NM ‘grafted herself’ onto that piece as cook
Detailed description and analysis of film and working process

Arden’s brilliant intellect, topic of women’s pain, ‘the slave’s love of the master’, split between the mother and the father. Involvement of drink and drugs in working process and failure to divide performance circumstances from living situation of performers
‘There was no form so it was toxic’
Jane Arden’s suicide
NM’s abortion follows this, allows her access to therapy, starts her writing

People Show
NM in Paddington Station piece with Jose Nava (Pepe), Mark Long (ML), ‘Black Joy’ [Lemoine], Dawn.
Performance in Hyde Park bandstand in the snow for no audience
The Tower Show in Luton
NM’s discovery that she is pregnant, proposal to men that she will have the baby and make it part of the show
No mix of the domestic and social with art in the company
Pepe’s breakdown, relationship between Mark Long and Mike [Figgis, MF]
NM in People Show 73: The Tower Show and for two more years
Jacksons Lane, Oval House, touring and Amsterdam, four shows a night, NM pregnant
Description of devising process
Other women in company: Joy Lemoine– Nigerian woman, trained at Dartington, Didi [Hopkins], Dawn [?], Laura [Gilbert] had left.
ML and MF ‘delightfully antagonistic’, not talking

Art school anarchy, domestic drama enacted, hostility with ML, devising process
Jan 1979, performing at Chapter, Cardiff, with baby Lily
Dusty Hughes running the Bush in London
Detailed description of show

Another People Show, ICA, lift and mirror ball
The Boxing Show, male/ female divide
Emil Wolk and Jill lodging with NM in Shepherd’s Bush

NM asked to leave People Show company
‘Being told where I didn’t belong gave me a sense of where I might belong. That wasn’t it.’
NM looking for meaning, beauty, connectedness, they happier with chaos
NM at geographical remove from earlier life
Relationship to women’s companies
Connections to individuals now: still sees Mica Nava, Laura Mulvey occasionally. Lived with Peter Wollen
Met Juliet Mitchell, daughters at same school. Eleanor Stephen died 2005

Natasha Morgan’s Own Shows

Well-received by People Show members who regret asking her to leave

Jim’s Gym. Last piece with People Show. Puts more of herself into it
– she a concierge, as part of pre-set. Playing Aunty, an objectionable character. Tender moment as two old derelicts singing ‘September Song’.
At the Bush

No Longer Dream at Oval
Kate Crutchley aware she’s leaving People Show, commissions her at Oval- offered the space and £100. Tony Jackson (TJ) from People Show works with her
Clive Tempest sees it and recommends her for New Theatre Workshops and Arts Council funding
Basis in lost personal rituals. Wardrobe central. War. Fantasies in bedroom around religion and boyfriends
Detailed description of piece includes projections of home movies of her
brother, and pet rabbit also played by TJ
Scripted rigidly from devising process, light and sound as container for form including some improvised sequences, strong influence of People Show
There is a script. Performed at Oval Upstairs

New Theatre Workshops: The Tring Thing
Dusty Hughes had gone the first year. NM supported him in his first year writing. Split when Lily was 3.
Meeting Jenny Carey (JC), Helen Cooper, Tim Albery, Trevor Allan, Rick Fisher (RF), Geraldine Pilgrim (GP), Penny Cherns, Carol Leader
Project 7 a separate group creating weird unpredictable spontaneous events throughout
Continued beyond Tring thing
Created a piece about Lorca (played by NM)
Use of space and landscape
Creating small events throughout the event – pieces seen sidelong
Project 7 an extra outside more rigidly structured six projects
Led to That’s Not It

Project 7 continuation at psychodrama centre in Devon, Holwell, for ten days
Emphasis on process rather than what would be produced
Support of ACGB (Arts Council GB) and Gulbenkian for process and development of the art form
Resistance to structure and analysis. One person is asked to leave [Penny Cherns] difficult decision
Performance event created – silent piece, building an ark
Hard training of The People Show had taught her to be with chaos
Rich process – JC, Nigel, Trevor Allan were later involved in Mother’s Arms
Helen – produces own plays. Carol Leader – a psychoanalyst. Tim Albery directs opera

Work with Hesitate and Demonstrate
Nostalgia. Bull and Gate, Highgate, Nottingham, Hull.
NM can’t remember details or title, but can remember music but dream-like piece
NM not involves in creating role she played (took over from Didi Hopkins?)
NM’s impatience with the work – it needs a brick through it to break the dream
NM’s sense of its distance while her interest is in now – how the past inhabits the present

Read A Room of One’s Own while working at Spare Rib, seen as too bluestocking, upper class. Went to Oxford to research and think about privilege, libraries, money
Very relevant to her life, living with Dusty, Lily, Clive, Jonathan etc, negotiation around childcare. No space of her own. No meeting place. Childcare not valued.
‘Letter written in anger’ – a letter she wrote to Dusty – becomes a central thread of piece
Banned by Virginia Woolf estate, threat to injunct her
Oscar Bucelinck, top lawyer hired to read book and the script (rewritten 3 days before dress rehearsal), asks for two changes
Description of Room
JC life-size dummies, Tadeusz Kantor’s influence (The Dead Class)
At end Jenny Carey plays VW-figure
Taken to Royal Court Theatre Upstairs and on tour
Arts Council Support
Clive Tempest at ACGB funded Room

Split with Dusty during Mother’s Arms
Started work with his meditation teacher Barry Long to deal with her anger at the split, issues around creativity
Fed into By George George Sands’ political activity, prolific writing, arranging divorce etc – very bad relationship with children

Mother’s Arms
Possible influence of Nancy Friday, My Mother My Self
Experience of being a mother, relationship of her own mother
Detailed description of show, themes, images, process, follows in direct relation to photographs and designs

References include: Tim Thomas, Laurie Anderson ‘Oh Superman’
Reception of Room by Women’s Movement, Victoria Radin review

By George
Interest in being a woman writer, having a number of lovers, be creative, have children, be involved in politics. Difficulty of relationship, meditation, fury and frustration, erratic sexual passions
Issue of love is central to piece
Research trip to France with Lily and Jenny Carey in George Sand  (GS) territory – used images of swings, circuses, bird in cages, experienced there.
Furniture as scenery
Sand covers the set (GS pun), NM wrote name in the sand – GS’s relationships with intellectual men, romantic men – played by dummies. Noel Greig in cast.
Nancy Diuguid was to direct – personal crisis intervenes, instead played herself as an American traveller
Image of singing wallpaper cherubs, ACGB funded a composer
The most difficult play to do
GS died of colon cancer, hated by her children
Image: a sandcastle, rained on and washed away

Ariadne’s Afternoon
Pierre Audi (PA) running Almeida, a lovely space, commissioned it.
NM’s interest in space
Influence of Edward Gordon Craig exhibition, Spatial relationships. Jung. PA wanted them to do a play there, but him to direct – total flop.
Title from De Chirico painting of a little girl in a hot Mediterranean midday
Directed by PA it became an esoteric French piece, ‘nothing to do with me’ beautifully designed with two huge cricket screens.

An Independent Woman        
The piece that led her to becoming a psychotherapist
Her daughter asked what happens when we die and NM couldn’t answer
Research – closed doors, treated with suspicion. Only bereavement counselling who trained her as a counsellor and volunteers as visitor 2 days a week at a geriatric hosipital
ACGB funded
Great Ormond St, cancer organisations, undertakers etc won’t let her in
Gas chambers and war are also issues – need to do her time
Exhausting work, being alive and working with dying, looking through the door. Visceral experience of non-existence. Wrote in journals, used it in play.

All performers had life-size dummies of themselves
Rehearsal, improvisation – Thomas Wheatley (has now changed name), Anita Harman (now in US), JC, RF. Badly received. Created anger – people wrote letters. John Ashford rang, very angry, his parents had died.
NM has re-written it as a radio play and a film
Paraphernalia of the living gradually taken away
Title about her realisation of no such thing as independence, like the stance of her visitor
Becomes Lady Stalin – someone who thinks she has everything sorted
Learning how to be safely and reliably dependent, ‘I am also in the line with the people in the wheelchairs. Independence is bollocks’

Psychotherapy 1
Interest in real lives and interactions
Therapy room as theatre

Other Performances
Chains of Love (TV) – Tupperware sex party, devised piece with Mike Bradwell.
Her character trying to be a libidinous creature within sometimes repressive structures
Miriam Margolyes (MM) invites her to replace another actress as Alice B Toklas in Gertrude Stein and a Companion, well-written. MM is Gertrude Stein
Fringe First – sell out at Hampstead, Bush, Sydney Festival etc, in US shown as part of teaching a course on women in theatre
In preparation NM records interviews with other women in experimental theatre and performance (Anne Bean, Tina Keane, Carlyle Reedy etc)
Movement towards performance courtesy of People Show
Peter Brook’s Carmen in Paris inspiring even before the show began

Final production of An Independent Woman at Watermans, nearly a year later, people came from the hospital – consultant and nurses
NM in therapy, looking for training but not yet quite ready to give up acting. Playing George Orwell’s wife on TV making a pretend dinner party rather than her daughter’s birthday party is the tipping point.
Played Angustias in The House of Barnarda Alba with Glenda Jackson, Joan Plowright, Gillian Hanna, on Shaftesbury Avenue just before this.
Very hard as single parent, Lily falling asleep in dressing room

Psychotherapy 2
Links between theatre and therapy: entrances, exits, drama of moved furniture, drama of tissues, what you wear for each client, lighting, playing games, sitting in different chairs.
Psychodrama, family constellation work
Her consulting room atypical, lots of stuff
Sounds and movements as expression, like a play, told again and again but also every performance slightly different.
A witnessed event, in the present but with a history
A Gestalt psychotherapist, creative, using the whole
Winnicott and play
Has she written about it? Gave a seminar about her work
Metanoia Institute want her to do a Ph D
Should it becomes a PhD or maybe a piece of theatre

Feminism now
Asking questions
Met Mandy Merck again and through her Mica Nava
Their involvement in Jews for Palestine
NM not wanting to be involved in old style political activity: meetings, conferences around it
Symptomatic of something in the culture, not current

Direct Current the original title for That’s Not It
NM wants to be indirect now
Optimism about feminism? Daughter Lily is 28 nearly 29, much more sorted. Hasn’t read A Room of One’s Own, not much knowledge of feminism, but at her age NM didn’t either.
Her generation seem to be more sorted, capable, assertive.
Desire to get women friends together but it doesn’t happen – too busy with their grandchildren

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