Dawn Walton reflects on the Collage Arts Lockdown Monologues

Dawn Walton is a creative associate at Collage Arts.  She has been working on a Collage Community project called Lockdown monologues. We asked women that self-designated as black women and/or women of colour from North London to tell us what they were thinking. What emerged was that lockdown had given women time to think and the Black Lives Matter movement have empowered them to ask big questions and process key events in their lives.

Women who wanted to tell their own story worked with Dawn, as coach, mentor, dramaturg and director.  Some women preferred to work with an actor who worked up their script into a final presentation. The initial conversations with the women were with Steve Medlin, the artistic director of Collage Arts. He curated the process and cemented the critical relationships between the storyteller and the actor or director that guided the process. From this point, the collaborations and decisions were made exclusively by women of colour.

What is emerging is an intimate set of authentic voices capturing this extraordinary moment in our history.

Collage Arts will be releasing one of the monologues each week starting in early October.

Dawn Walton writes:

When we speak, we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcomed, but when we are silent we are still afraid, so it is better to speak,” Audre Lorde

Each time the zoom screen stuttered into life a new black woman was sat there. Each of them had the same wonderful mixture of fear and curiosity (and relief that the director was a black woman). Each had a story and each feared that their story “wasn’t good enough” to be heard.

The first session was really a way of allowing them to get used to me and what a director did. It was all about them. And my job was to get them to understand – just that. It was important to gain the trust I needed to get them talking and sharing their ideas with me. This session ended with them committing to writing their story down. Writers or not they ALL wrote their stories and sent them to me.

As we now knew each other better, session two was a more relaxed “game of two halves. First half was working on the text – what works, what gets cut, what needs to move, etc.  Second half was the rehearsal.  Session three was recording their monologues.

The stories are varied but specific and urgent.  A story of missing the local swimming pool during lockdown becomes a fight for women’s health; birthday celebrations end in a life changing encounter with the police, a comic monologue on a bus has an unwelcome destination. The specificity of each piece gives them their universality.

All the women have discovered new skills – writing/ storytelling/ acting/ dramaturgy and they have grown in confidence.  All of them committed and delivered.  All of them sat taller in their seats when they were done.  And as I worked with them to deliver their amazing stories, so did I.  When they spoke their stories they had no fear.

It’s interesting that the real innovation in TV, theatre, podcasts, etc, are coming from Black Women.  With the right support a project like this has the potential to be part of creating a critical mass of new talent with original stories.

Dawn Walton  September 2020

Dawn Walton has more than 20 years in the industry.  Dawn began her directing career at the Royal Court Theatre. She is Founder, and former Artistic Director and Chief Executive, of Eclipse Theatre, the UK’s principal Black-led national production company.