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Bringing my show back to Brighton

So, my show is coming home, right to where it was created. I’ll be performing Moments of Weightlessness on Tuesday 24th May in the Brighton Dome Studio Theatre, where we first tried it in front of some invited audience members. That first creative burst was an incredible period for me. It began at The Spire, a creation space where I took my piano, drew pictures, wrote text, played tennis against the strings, played with toys, swung things, recorded myself talking to the empty church. In only a couple of days, the show’s shape was mostly in place. Then the hard work of developing and polishing it started, with a team of brilliant creative experts around me (including Lou Cope, Becca Ellson, Janine Fletcher & Chris Umney) to help. The showing at the Dome told us we’d created something which was moving and which had exciting potential.

I’ve been touring the show since November 2015 and have found it so rewarding to do it lots of times. Not only has it really become part of me, but it’s been so nice to play to different places. I grew up in Newcastle and I really noticed how the Northerners laughed more! The fulfillment of people laughing and crying while I perform is quite addictive, so I’m hoping my home crowd of Brighton will beat them all. I had a lot of really strong responses from audiences (listen here).  One of the sweetest comments was from an 8-yr-old girl in Reading, who said “the way Sarah plays the piano… it’s a miracle!”.

I also had several really deep chats with old friends who found the show really chimed with their motherhood experiences.  One sent me this great poem by a Geordie lady.

Small Beauties

Let the milk boil over,
The half-filled tins of baked beans sit idle on the table,
Children scribble on the walls with crayons,
Clothes heap in riotous mountains.

I am reading a book.

Let the bells ring, bills lie unopened,
Doors slam over then bash shut, letters unwritten,
Plants unwatered, bread gets as hard as a rock.

I am thinking about the moon.

Let the bank get nasty, the grass grow high,
Children decorate themselves with lipstick,
Build houses within houses in every room,
Pee on the floor, pull doll’s heads off.

I am looking for a door.

Oh come here you small beauties,
Together we will run across the town moor
With waving fingers, running for our lives.

You are too small, and too beautiful to ignore.

Julia Darling (1956-2005), lived in Newcastle for most of her adult life

Apr ’16 Home Live Art at Brighton Festival: 20-21 May

Ahead of her installation in ‘At Home; a 21st Century Salon’ next month at Brighton Festival, Home Live Art invited Sarah Nicolls to tell us more about her piece Body Clock – what it is, where it came and how the themes explored relate to her own life. Here’s Sarah’s response:

My installation is a full-size grand piano tipped vertically and then set swinging from side to side, like an enormous piano metronome.

The piano is from 1900 and has beautiful gold bars inside it, which will set off reflections in the gold of the room’s mirror and chandelier. I created it to play ‘inside’ the piano more easily – so the strings are totally available to the performer to pluck like a harp, as well as having piano keys as normal. When I made it I hadn’t expected it to swing – this was a by-product of the frame design – and I realised it was a metaphor for having children: we can have an idea about something we’re creating but in fact, until something exists in the flesh we won’t fully know it (and of course children just keep on growing and changing).

In the show I mingle the birth of the piano with the birth of my son and also try to put the chaos of motherhood on the stage, literally changing imaginary nappies whilst playing the piano with the instrument turned fully onto its side. After, I collapse against the keyboard balancing diagonally on the ground, playing whilst seemingly asleep. The music is all my own and is on my album – available as a download and as a Limited Edition piano key with a USB-key embedded in it.

I’ve been touring the show around the country and have been meeting parents and collecting birth stories, and through doing so, I’ve been continuously reminded where the idea originally came from for me. When I was probably 37 and preparing for the leap into trying for a baby, I skimmed a lighthearted Guardian article by a single woman probably of the same age, saying that every time an eligible man approached her, they were probably put off by the fact that as soon as they got close they could just hear this very loud ticking.  I thought that was funny but I could also completely relate. I think I became a bit manic around that age and felt I needed to ‘get on with it’. I had never been a baby person, wasn’t madly broody in a ‘oh, they’re so cute’ sort of way.  Much more in a ‘oh man, I’m going to be 40 and apparently there’s a statistical danger there’ll be seriously ill if I don’t do it now!!’ sort of way.  There wasn’t a huge amount of contemplation relating to how it would actually be…

So, I related to this columnist – I could hear my own ticking.  I realised the piano on its own could be my body, my ticking, as well as the perpetual motion of motherhood, growth, life, pulsing, and that rocking that all mums do, even if they’re not holding a baby (I have rocked an empty pram a few times…).

Resident in the Drawing Room through the Salon, my hope is that visitors can contemplate this relationship of our own internal rhythms and our changing external pressures, or perhaps more simply, just to take time to think about time.

Body Clock Installation

Body Clock is a giant sound installation, marking the passing of time.

Angel House, Fri 20 & Sat 21 May
for Home Live Art as part of Brighton Festival

A vertical grand piano swings perpetually from side to side, like a giant metronome marking time.  A near-immovable piece of furniture rendered weightless. Sparked by the internal ticking of her own call to motherhood, Body Clock by Sarah Nicolls is a contemplation on the perpetual motion of our inner cycles.

Sarah Nicolls Inside Out Piano

Sarah Nicolls Inside Out Piano

Found in the Drawing Room at Angel House, this monumental instrument moves fluidly and hypnotically: a sonic sculpture-come-installation, intended to let visitors take time to think about time.

Read my blog piece about the inspiration and thinking behind Body Clock