Visually and sonically arresting, You Will See Everything is a visceral narration of grief. To discuss the process of creating the piece, as well as the responsibilities surrounding portrayals of difficult content, I spoke with writer/director Stella Green, producer Emily Hamilton, and designer Freddie Cotton.
The piece explores how childhood experiences of grief permeate into adult life, a conversation which Stella tells me “we’d never really seen outside of very private spaces”. To provide some insight into what to expect, Stella gave me four adjectives: weird, gnarly, ugly, ragey. I think the only word I’d add is ‘unsettling’ (in a great, powerful way). Most interestingly, Stella tells me to expect a “digital-film-theatre-music-video hybrid dense monstrous 20 minute monologue” which dissolves the boundaries of film, theatre and genre.
Born out of Stella’s writing over the past year, it became what Stella calls a “living, breathing thing” when brought into collaboration with Emily and Freddie under Definitely Fine. The piece, therefore, became a collaborative process, with a tight turnaround of only 28 days. The team also describe it as an exercise outside of comfort zones, which brought to mind just how outside of my comfort zone I felt as I was watching the piece.
The striking, other-worldly visual material is described by Freddie as “a constant feeling of being elsewhere.” Interestingly, Freddie’s creative process relied on feeling, over learned design experience, which appears to have been more effective in creating the set for a piece about grief. It seems Freddie’s creative process is as explorative and instinctual as Stella’s writing.
This piece, in all its aspects, is built through an exploration of personal experience. Stella is interested in “writing about things that I initially feel afraid to write about, which are often my own experiences.” Her mum’s death began “bleeding into everything I was trying to write”, so much so that “the piece is sort of un-divorceably intertwined with my own experiences. But it’s also bigger than them.” Because of this, she found her directorial role jarring, navigating the balance between honouring her own feelings and her emotional responsibility to others in the room. What came from this was a collaborative and, again, explorative effort to let others throughout the process “be as authoritative as you regarding what the writing means”.
As the piece portrays incredibly difficult themes, I wondered about the duty of care the piece had to its audience. Emily observes that “a lot of us are heavily impacted by the art we consume”. And because theatre is made for audiences, “it is absolutely essential to take care of the people who have given up their time and/or money to watch whatever we are putting out there.” While she maintains that “we should absolutely be platforming these difficult conversations”, she stresses that “difficult or heavy work should not shock, devastate and then abandon its audiences.”
My conversation with Stella, Freddie and Emily portray You Will See Everything as an intensely collaborative and exploratory piece of work. There is a huge amount of care that has gone into this production, from the wider acknowledgement of how audiences may feel to the tiny details, each and every red thread.