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Play Inside Series 2 Interviews

Play Inside's innovative new launch - Series 2: How to be a Real Man or The Availability of Air is a powerful new form of immersive audio story experience, written as an inner monologue and listened to through a mobile device. Play Inside's mission is to share untold stories from unusual perspectives informed by first hand experiences, deepening the listener's compassion and understanding for other people’s lived experiences.

The podcast audience is asked to mirror the actions of the character as they move about their own homes, with simple actions like washing their hands or looking out of a window. This new form enables shared moments of physical and emotional intimacy and the chance to glimpse into another person’s world. 

With the episodes free to listen to throughout November we caught up with 3 of the writers Michelle (It’s Only Sex, Right?), Angham (Seven Souls) and Anonymous (Another World) to discuss the project.

Can you tell me a little bit about your piece and what inspired it’s creation?
Michelle: My piece is in real-time, we follow Meesh's thought processes as she navigates her desire for a child with a last minute change of plan from a pushy sperm donor, he has suggested Natural Insemination (Sex), when they had agreed Artificial Insemination (Jizz in a Cup then Turkey Baster in). We join her in the bathroom of the Airbnb she has rented, as she tries not to panic,  how has she got into this situation?  Does she even want a child? Is he even who he says he is? ..all the while having spent 9 months waiting for an all clear from her Doctor to go ahead - her uterus is finally healthy, she has a tiny ovulation window open, but this wasn't the plan...
This was inspired by my own story, it's based on a real life situation that happened, to me, a few years ago now. It's a story that has also happened to many women, even more so as the number of women wanting to become single mother's by choice (SMBC) and using sperm donors rises. The Sperm Donor world, the online free version, not the '£750 for a vial of sperm' Version, can be a very dangerous, unregulated place - but often the only place that most women can afford. We need to share stories like this to forewarn women, to make the websites like PrideAngel (where you can meet donors) more vigilant and take responsibility. And to make women more aware, especially during this process when we are so vulnerable, and often desperate, to have a child.

Anonymous: My piece is about surviving pain and trauma through fantasy. It’s about finding a way to endure physical, emotional pain and loss. Making sense of childhood trauma and attempting to find hope for another version of life that feel more liberating. It was inspired by my episodes of extremely painful cluster headaches that would leave me paralysed in pain and the idea of losing control and trying to gain it again through fantasy.
Angham: I paint a picture using words to explain part of what is going through my mind due to Jouska syndrome. The inspiration was drawn from real experiences that I have gone through in my life.

Did you have to do any research when you developed the piece?
Anonymous: My research was mostly my experience and conversations with friends about their experience of childhood trauma and what kind of coping mechanisms they use/used to survive. 

Michelle: Yes, of course, even though this was my story, it was from many voices. I have spoken with women that have had similar experiences, that sit undecided about whether they really want a child or that is what society says. I spoke with single women in their 40's, who are so desperate for a child they can't see how they can live without being a mother. But it's also a story of coercion, of somehow finding ourselves in a situation that we don't remember signing up for, and there being no way out - I have spoken with many many women that have experienced that sense of fear, of not feeling like you have a choice anymore. I have also spoken with women who felt uneasy with their sperm donor's, and some with a similar situation as mine - they weren't too hard to find. There's also a BBC podcast series about sperm donors called Male Order - which just reflected so much of what we have all experienced.

How is it for you sharing a part of this series alongside the other artists?
Angham: It was really beneficial and a good opportunity to open our eyes to different styles of artistic works.

Michelle: It's been a complete pleasure and joy to be working alongside all the other writers. We have all shared stories that have been alive and present for us, and they happened to be stories around this shared experience of oppression, specifically male oppression, in some way - it wasn't set out to be this - but it was a deep process for us to share really intimate stories, to feel safe to do so, and to know that it was important to do so. Two of the stories are from Palestinian writers - as they shared glimpses into their homes and lives with us, and given the current awful situation in Gaza it's so important for these stories to be shared - the everyday worlds, of life under occupation. It has been a privilege to be witness to people's sharing - the anonymous writers remained anonymous throughout the whole process,  - we had a sense that we were creating something really special. Play Inside is a platform to share difficult stories, in this incredibly intimate way - inside someone's home with them - it's a new way of writing for many, but it brought out some really great conversations about our cultural differences and similarities -  with writers from the UK, Egypt and Palestine - our workshops were deeply moving, joyful and important. It really had a huge impact on me, and I think us all.

Anonymous: It was very moving and inspiring to be among all other artists in the project. The idea of a safe space for stories that aren’t very easy to tell can be transformative. It felt so good to be seen and accepted and be able to offer that to others as well. For me that’s a privilege I hardly get. Also, as a writer I always want to explore all the layers of personal shame while writing so that I can get to the core of everything. I learned that usually what you think you’re most ashamed of can be what everyone really relates to and wants to read, listen to or watch. 

What keeps you inspired as a creative? 
Michelle: The injustice in the world. I feel deeply moved to make things better - whatever that means. I am questioning that a lot at the moment. How is Art Useful? How much is it for the artist? As well as the greater good? How does sharing stories make change in the world, shift our perspective on how we see people, to give people a voice - to be heard. In particular women's voices and less represented voices. As a mixed race woman of colour I'm inspired by cultural norms and the biases we all carry. I am working on a commission with a community in Twerton, just outside Bath at the moment - it's such a privilege to be let into people's lives, to witness their stories from the community, inspired by their passion and love of what they do. I get inspired by connection, by the outsiders, the weirdo's and the waifs and strays of society. I'm also inspired by silly/ridiculous/playful people - cos let's face it - the world is a lot at the moment.

Angham: I believe creativity is a gift humans are born with. The events and environment that surround us reframe us, they change our perspective, and underpin this gift.

Anonymous: I think my two biggest sources of inspiration are nature and relationships. Nature helps me feel present and safe and therefore able to get in touch with my creative self. And all kinds of relationships that affect my life and trigger me can always be an inspiration to create. Also I dream a lot. Sometimes I get inspired by my clues in my dreams especially the ones during short naps where I’m half asleep and half awake. 

What do you hope a listener takes away from hearing your play?
Anonymous: I hope someone can listen to my play and feel somehow safer. Somehow grateful that they are not alone.

Michelle: My story comes with a lot of trigger warnings - and I really want people to take that seriously. My intention is not to re-traumatise anyone, ever, but to share a deeply difficult moment - to open up the discussion that this happens - and can happen to anyone - to talk about what bad behaviour we 'ok'd' when we were younger; there's a lot of healing that so many of us need to do around this. We had a lot of discussion with SARSAS (Rape support team) about how we pitch it, to make sure we do our utmost to look after our listeners, and give the audience a chance to care take themselves how they need. It has also provided a sense of catharsis for some listeners (in pilot testing) - that it's not their fault, that there are some incredibly manipulative people out there, that can outwit the best of us, leaving us spinning. I want this piece to invoke discussion around consent and coercion, and for men in particular to listen, and to discuss. I really hope people 'enjoy' the piece, even though its a deeply difficult space it's also funny and light in moments, and reflective of a lot of universal experiences. But please remember you can stop the audio at any point if it gets too much for you.  

Angham: I let the listener be a part of my story. My goal is always to convey my life experiences to different people through artistic works or even just to a group of friends. I feel extremely happy when my story is seen by someone new.

Play Inside’s Series 2: How to be a Real Man or The Availability of Air streams with links here -

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