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A me by any other name

on Tue, 07/22/2014 - 09:00

By Sarah Robertson

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose /By any other name would smell as sweet

My name is Sarah Robertson. I could have been a Victoria as apparently that name was in the mix when my parents were deciding. In my opinion I’m not a Victoria, Vicki or even Tori. But then, maybe that’s just because I’m Sarah and always have been. Despite some kids in my primary school saying I looked like a Georgina (cheers guys), my name feels like it fits. 

But Sarah is just part of it. I was born a Robertson. The extended whanau gets referred to as the “Robbies”; Robbo is the nickname I get from the guys at work (funnily being the same nickname by brother has from his mates…perhaps a lack of originality?) and although I have the Elsmore chin (which means a really little non-existent one!) my other more prominent attributes (breasts and stomach) are definitely Robertson based. Well the breasts anyway…the stomach might be my fault!

Seven years ago I met a man called Neal Browne, nearly two years ago we started dating and in February next year we will be married. And thus endeth Sarah Robertson and in her place Sarah Browne. Which feels strange but absolutely what I want to do. I consider myself a feminist and rally against the sexist world we live in and all the little (and big ways) women are made to feel small or degraded. So maybe some other feminists might question why I’m not standing up for Robertson and am instead taking on my partner’s name. I don’t think I can answer fully and maybe if someone explained to me in a certain way I would feel different. But for me if you pull it back a little, my surname now is a man’s so it’s not as if I’m free of that patriarchal aspect anyway.

The Manifestation in Making

on Tue, 07/15/2014 - 06:14

I am a great believer in opening spaces for the things we desire to happen and allowing them to manifest organically in that space - giving them the chance to come forth and reveal themselves as and when they’re ready to, without forcing them.  That’s not to say we don’t work at them.  That’s not to say we don’t try our damned hardest, or sow seeds which will in time grow in to their manifestation.  But, I think it’s about allowing ourselves to be more receptive to the opportunities that arise – and not limiting our outcomes by anticipating a specific result prior to its occurrence.

About two years ago I developed a real niggle with the way a lot of theatre work was being made in London.  I heard from so many actors that were struggling to learn scripts in a week, as shows were being created, rehearsed and put on stage at breakneck speed. Of course, it’s money that plays a huge factor in this - affordable rehearsal space is difficult to find in London.  Few companies have the money to pay their actors, hence keeping rehearsal periods short so as not to impact on actor’s paid job time.  And if actors are getting paid, the chances are a lot of companies can’t afford to pay them for more than a couple of week’s rehearsal.   I made a decision about a year ago to stop making work like this, it works for some, but not for me.  It was stressful, and I began to seriously question why I was making the work under such agonising restraints.  Relying on actors being at rehearsal when not paid (and as not paid being able to cancel attendance at the last minute), was detrimental to the creation process, and ultimately, we were trying to force things to happen in a rehearsal room when they simply weren’t ready to.

Actual Proof

on Tue, 07/08/2014 - 11:07


So I head to Japan on Saturday. I am going with my boyfriend and we are flying into Tokyo, spending three weeks in Japan and then heading over to South Korea and spending three weeks there. I am very fortunate. I feel very grateful. Not just for the trip, which is amazing – I’ve never travelled to these places before! But I feel grateful for how this even came about. The struggle we, as a couple, went through to get to this place.

Some readers will know that I had a miscarriage in January 2011. It was an unplanned pregnancy, but realised I wanted to keep the baby. There is a whole other story of how much I learned about myself, how I dug very deep within to overcome the grief of this experience. The experience is now one I will treasure for the rest of my life (my Buddhist practice helped me enormously to see it in this way – I practice a chanting Japanese Buddhism called Nichiren Buddhism and have done so for almost four years). Six weeks after the miscarriage I met Dan, the lovely man I am about to go travelling with for six weeks. What the miscarriage showed me is that I do desire to have a baby. But not just to have a baby, have a baby WITH the person I love. Which happens to be this lovely man, Dan.

This time last year conversations about marriage and children came up in our relationship. Through having these conversations we came to realise we wanted different things. This was difficult. We went through several months of talking, and talking, and then talking some more. Digging deeper and deeper sharing how we see our lives, what the future may or may not hold. Coming to the point where we thought the solution was to probably break up. It seemed clear to me at times that if we want such different things how can we stay together?

Sustainability and Story

on Tue, 07/01/2014 - 16:55


Pictures of polar bears sitting alone on sinking icebergs and satellite photos of retreating glaciers and ice shelves are among the defining images of our time. For the next generation, at the current rate, we'll need 1.5 planet Earth's to sustain the world's population and its consumerism. Problem is - we've only one.   Life on our planet optimally flourishes within certain temperature ranges. Beyond this there are limitations to adaptability. Governments which have recognised this challenge are committing to try forestall a 2% climate increase. Many scientists argue even 2% is unsustainable. Beyond this, there will be a Tipping Point for many species and terrains, beyond which there is no turning back - exponential change will not be able to be stopped. This is why I am studying Sustainable Business.   Thinking and action on sustainability happens at a macro-level when governments and industry change their approaches to manufacturing and energy use. Yet we can all make no less valuable a contribution as individuals and communities by simple change of habit - turning off lights, closing curtains, recycling waste. We have to shift the paradigm of think about 'home' as our address to 'home' as our shared planet.   In achieving habit change on sustainability I believe there is a huge role to be played by 'story'. 'Preaching' on climate change will fall on our time’s media-saturated and therefore largely ‘deaf’ ears. However, humanity is hard-wired for 'story'. Elisabeth Beresford's Wombles were sustainability characters before this issue really had a name. What do we all know about Wombles? Their ‘culture’ is picking up rubbish on Wimbledon Common.

Things I have learnt...

on Tue, 06/24/2014 - 14:32


It's a very common tale. Heading back to New Zealand for 3 months to visit, and staying.

I remember feeling like an alien when I first arrived. It had been 9 years. My friendships were frozen in time, I was tucked away in my parent's basement in the heart of suburban Auckland, completely broke and I did not speak the language.

My home in Brixton felt very, very far away.

Fast-forward 3 years and here I am; beaming in from the Mother Ship. At the risk of sounding like an article from that an old school mate posted on Facebook and you absentmindedly clicked on, here is my report from the last 3 years…  

Things I have learnt (and am prepared to unlearn, as is my wont) :  

*I believe beliefs are a dangerous thing. *The more specific a place or story, the more universally it speaks. *1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar is the secret ingredient to an awesome chicken stock. *New Zealand is on the other side of the Earth, not a Black Hole. *Financial debt and worry is my greatest creative block. *Smoking rollies and drinking red wine does not equal creativity. *Stealing with respect is a very useful pastime. *Talking, talking, talking; blah, blah, blah. JUST DO IT. *A small community is wonderful but it's important to get a long, deep breath of fresh air at regular intervals. There are many other small communities satelliting mine that are worth a visit now and then. *Grandparents don't last forever. They are precious time capsules and a direct link to my hiSTORY. *To speak from my authentic, truthful voice is ALWAYS the answer. *A room full of people who REALLY KNOW WHAT THEY'RE DOING, rarely do. *The ratio of Great Theatre : Boring Theatre is better in London.

Mid-Summer Mid-Life

on Tue, 06/17/2014 - 09:59


I have revered midsummer for many years, maybe always, but certainly since I was a teenager. I grew up close to Stonehenge where there was always a party, a celebration, a recognition, a noticing at midsummer. It was in the bones of the stones. The essence of the landscape. In the pale cornflowers and the heady fragrance of orange blossom that I’d wear in my hair. All richness, warmth, magic and all good and long, long, long days. And this year I have turned 50. Real mid-life stuff and magic is happening, and fruits and flowers of the first 50 years of my life are spreading out before me to enjoy as I step into my future. Many long summer days ahead, many riches to harvest,  the people I love, friendships, family, my children maturing, creativity and magic.  May you enjoy your midsummer, there is magic if you look for it; I leave you with this, from a Midsummer Night’s Dream….

if we shadows have offended,

Think but this, and all is mended:

That you have but slumbered here,

While these visions did appear;

And this weak and idle theme,

No more yielding but a dream,

Gentles, do not reprehend.

If you pardon, we will mend.”

Homage to Flying Low

on Tue, 06/10/2014 - 06:03





Breathe in. Exhale.

Gather and send.


Loud muscle’s releasing,

This body is strong.

Fold in, swing arms,

Gather and send.


Feet inside the earth.

Falling and sinking, flying and circling.

Spinning round, sound of breath,

Gather and send.


Limbs warming, working,

Back curving, rolling,

Fingertips firing,

Gather and send.


Alive and awake,

Seeing the room and each other,

This flying is freedom,

Gather and send.


Ten toes into the floor,

Curving together as one,

To the beats of the drum

Gather and send.


Gathering and sending.

Gathering and sending.

Gathering and sending.

We gather and send.

Virtual Hug

on Tue, 06/03/2014 - 16:25


My fiancé always buys his mum flowers whenever we go to visit her. It’s a nice old school touch that I love seeing as his mum always seems so happy and so surprised each time. It’s a nice way of putting into action the words “I care.”

Last Friday we were in Suffolk visiting Neal’s mum and there hadn’t been an opportunity to get flowers as usual (we’d come straight from a wedding reception) so when I went out for a walk for provisions (Prosecco and some fresh air) I spotted a beautiful bunch of bright pink flowers and I bought them for Shirley. It felt like such an easy thing to do to make such a nice gesture. It also made me think of my own mum all the way over in New Zealand and how I can’t do that. The simple act of picking up some flowers from a supermarket and being able to hand them over in person. Of being able to see the smile and  to hug. I can buy flowers for my mum (which I’ve just done)but it’s online since I’m all the way over here in London which means it isn’t cheap and as a result something that can be done often and also, it still feels removed as I’m not able to open the door to my parents house and just rock on in with a bunch of something sweet smelling and bright. It is the little things.

But flipping that moan into also being able to feel gratitude was easier than I thought it would be. Walking back to Shirley’s flat through the quiet village streets as the sun started to cast it’s warm glow over a previously rainy day, I vowed to buy my mum some flowers when I see her in February. I also just ordered her some online now and bought her (and my dad – didn’t want him to feel left out) a card saying some nice things – Things I’d say over a cup of tea or a chat if I lived closer.

A Meditation on the Moment

on Tue, 05/27/2014 - 18:29

On Being In It - Stella Duffy

We are making work slowly at the moment, so slowly it doesn't actually feel like making work at all. But we are doing it, because we - a core of Shaky Isles who know we enjoy working together, learning with and from each other, who have decided to work together, to give time monthly, sometimes fortnightly, regularly, to creating a piece together – are becoming an ensemble. I can feel it happening. It is quick quick slow. It is like choreography and cooking. It is like a new thing I have no simile for.

We have made together in Shaky Isles. We have made together in Chaosbaby We have made together as friends and in many other guises and formations, on other shows and other pieces of work.

We have not – before now – made together as the seven that we are.

We are becoming. It's hard sometimes, to be becoming. To not be there yet, to not be finished yet, to not yet know what the story is.

Which is interesting, because being becoming, not being there yet, not being finished yet, not yet knowing the story, is exactly what we do to be alive. If we are finished, if we know what we are doing and have done, then there is no more story to be told. Then we are done.

I’m not ready to be done.

But even so, I recognise the uncertainty, the fear, the lower belly tremor, of staying in a place of not knowing.

Our culture does not like us to be not-knowing, especially as artists, as makers, as 'creative people'. Our culture likes us to pretend we have the answers.

There are times I would like to have the answers. Or to pretend I do. It would be far easier to lie and assure everyone I know what I’m talking about all the time.

All The Rage

on Tue, 05/20/2014 - 07:40


My sister’s favourite movie used to be this Australian film called “The Rage In Placid Lake.” I can’t really remember what it was about only that it starred the singer Ben Lee and was quirky.  (Note quirky not twee!) I mainly liked the title and it has stuck with me as often fitting for my state of mind. I am a little ragey rager, a mini incredible hulk, a red faced, fists clenched, bulging vein, and angry monster. A lot of things wind me up.

Living in London is not great for this affliction. There’s a multitude of things to be aggrieved by if you so choose. Apparently I’m often invisible. Well, surely that’s the only reason people literally walk into me on the streets or push onto a completely rammed train. Sometimes I find myself seething with anger about something that when I look back (even only minutes later) I am unsure as to what got me so steamed up. It feels like a poison inside me as it the rage replaces compassion or patience or reason and just bubbles me up and over like an unwatched boiling pot of water. At this point in time I can’t offer you an explanation as to why the rage volume has been cranked up to 11. I could muse that maybe it correlates with my approaching 7 year anniversary of being in London but for all the negativity big city living can bring, in my heart I know it’s not London’s fault. Perhaps my childish exuberance for life (yes I have that) is paired with a child’s tendency to strop and even at 33 and ¾ I still haven’t quite learned how to deal with that. Maybe. This blog isn’t meant to find the answer but is really just so I can make it clear don’t annoy me or it’s on!! Joking. I think a little anger is good…even a medium sized anger is ok. As with anything though, it’s what you do with it.