This is an article written for York Theatre Royal’s blog for Floating but I thought I’d share it on here too…
Whenever I speak to people about Floating there are always two questions they ask. The first is a fascination about where the idea to write the play came from, how it was inspired, what planted the seed of an idea nearly two years ago.
I am always very honest with this and say that it came from a friend, a high-dependency nurse, who, over vast amounts of wine told me about her day-to-day job, what it involved, how she felt about it and her frustrations. It was a very personal story she told me yet one that was also universal for many people. I think what I connected with most was that it was a positive story, that despite all the negativity surrounding the NHS, that despite the criticism, she chooses to do a job that I could not, on a daily basis dealing with grief, pain, anger, guilt but also hope and joy.
While much of the plot of Floating is built around those conversations other elements are very personal to me. A good friend, a former lecturer at York St John University who has sadly since passed away, inspired one of the characters, an older man struggling with illness, yet positive and ready to laugh despite the circumstances – a character planted in the back of my mind waiting for the right circumstance to make an appearance. Other parts, particularly those moments set away from the hospital are real life events, those anecdotes that you repeat time after time often at tedious parties, each time changing slightly are incredibly useful for a writer.
The second question I often get asked is how do you feel about reviews.
There are Artistic Directors, Writers and Performers who dismiss them completely, others who cling to the positives and rubbish the negatives (the phrases “reads like a 4 star review” and “they’re clearly an idiot” come up a lot) and those who hold grudges for year upon year waiting to exact revenge.
We’ve had very good reviews for the show and a couple of people who found it difficult to connect with. After a lot of soul searching I’ve concluded that for me good art should stimulate debate – I cannot imagine a scenario worse than indifference. If you accept the praise you have to accept criticism. You don’t have to listen to it of course (I have the constant internal monologue with myself as to whether the show is a monologue or is storytelling, I think at the moment it’s both – something unusual – sparked from a review), it is after all only one person’s opinion, and if it doesn’t sting or uplift then there’s something wrong with you, but that’s part of being creative and the process of making work.
Floating is unusual from everything else I’ve done – I think because I feel like I’ve channelled, edited and moulded an important discovered story rather than, as I have in the past, created something from nothing. It’s given me the opportunity to meet nurses, doctors, those who’ve experienced high-dependency care and seen the show, wanted to talk about it, their experiences,what they connected with, what they want to shout about to the world, what’s important to them and initiate debate with those outside the health service.
That the show came from a friend and later from research and talking to a group of NHS staff and nurses, places the whole team behind Floating under an incredible burden. This is a story of real peoples lives and it is our duty to do it justice and tell the story they and we feel needs to be told.
So come and see Floating. Come and see the story that’s not in the tabloids, the one that’s rarely talked about by MPs, the one that’s lived by thousands of dedicated, hard-working people every day. See it, debate it, argue about it, love it or hate it. If you talk about it afterwards, even for five minutes and it’s changed one view, one idea, one thought you had before the show, then the seed of that idea, planted two years ago, is baring fruit.
Best, Sam Freeman