Monday, 28 May 2007

Anxiety and dream substitutions

A compromised confession: this post isn't really about theatre.

I woke the other morning from my first thesis anxiety dream. Not that I haven't been anxious about it (as I've said to many of my colleagues in the corridors: I do a fine line in denial). But I've not yet had the visceral anxiety dream before, much like the ones I get the week before a performance season. You know the ones, you're onstage, you haven't got a clue what's going on, everyone else is in a different play, the AWB lawyers serve you with a writ halfway through.... OK, maybe that last one doesn't apply to everyone but is context specific. Well, subject specific (a certain rower's lawyers were threatening in the same way, but unfortunately not in a dream).

So, for reasons that make sense only according to dream logic, I have had a letter delivered. Its a slightly crumpled piece of lined ring binder-style foolscap paper, covered in scrawled handwriting in pencil that is barely legible. Alternate words are written in capitals. Its a missive from the director (T) of the theatre company that my thesis is about, who I much admire and have never met, saying how offensive he found the thesis and how it fatally misrepresented the company's practice, and if only I had talked to them, blah blah, but now its too late. Bridge burned, no going back.

For reasons that also make sense only according to dream logic, one of the other members of the company (R) is in my lounge room, and over a drink I vent all of my frustrations about the director's letter, saying what a terrible time it was for him to say such things, and couldn't he appreciate how upset I might be upon reading this, and that it was too late to change anything now. If only he had said something earlier, but now is a terrible time. I point at the crumpled paper a lot, and go over particular phrases that I feel are unjust, uncalled for, and generally cause offence. I don't recall R answering - this seemed to be a monologic dream - but we did have a companionable glass of wine or two, probably a Rutherglen Shiraz based on my current cellar. I think then he stumbled off down the street, as he did at 5am that night in Adelaide after we were all thrown out of the dive of a pub down the road from the theatre.

I've recounted this dream to my supervisor, who suggested it should be a preface to the thesis, and also to a couple of colleagues, who were amused. But its only upon writing it down that I've realised the transposition that has occurred - one real anxiety substituting for another, shifting and taking its form, the signs and codes jumbling together to make a mess "that nothing seems to justify" (Bois, Formless: A User's Guide) But of course there's a logic there. Small banal traumas of the everyday, framing themselves about work. Which can get confusing, because work and life are pretty much the same thing.

At the moment I find that everything is about time. Sometimes timing, but mostly just managing to find time for things. All sorts of things. Far too many things. But in terms of time I find myself 2.5 weeks out from PhD submission, 2 weeks into relationship breakup, 1.5 months out from rehearsals, 1 month out from teaching contract finishing, 4 days from next grant application, 4 days late on a residency aquittal, 2 days out from my last new lecture that is as-yet unwritten...... the list continues and proliferates, as lists are wont to do. I'm the pathological type with lists, and will write down new things on a list that I've done, just so I can cross them off and feel like I'm making progress. And I guess I am. But I until I escape the quicksand, the population of this list will undoubtedly continue to form strange dream hybrids, and haunt me as I sleep.

I'll try and write about cultural practice again soon, but I'm sorry, the words are not yet there. Take this as a humble substitution.


Anonymous said...

Actually a LOT of men worldwide experience what I call "an approach anxiety" when wanting to approach or simply speak to beautiful women.

I used to have the same fear and anxiety but I have learned to overcome it. Approaching beautiful women and starting a conversation that leads to something more is no longer a problem. Infact, I teach men how to do the same...


Nicholas Pickard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nicholas Pickard said...

Anyway... nice post David - it must be something in the air... my life is currently in a similar vein to yours...

In fact, i started a website recently... its called:

David Williams said...

Thanks Nick. And yes, it is curious these spam comments... Computer generated bots like the alleged 'Alex' clearly use language in different ways to the likes of us! Still, its nice to see that someone cares, even if they are a bot. (I must confess to having visions of HAL in 2001 here: "How are you feeling Dave? I'm sorry Dave I can't allow you to write that....")

I'll try and get along to Corvus as well - after the performative tour of the Carriageworks site last Sunday with Nighttime #2, it'll be interesting to see a different mobile performance in those spaces. Your review did make it sound very like Theatre Kantanka's shows too...