Review: Rituals for Change

Battersea Arts Centre
(This production is now closed, but keep up to date with Emma’s work here.

Emma Frankland’s work ‘Rituals for Change’ played at the Battersea Arts Centre for a few nights to modest audiences.  Her work deserved much more recognition than it got.  I arrived a stranger to Frankland’s work, and after having a solid experience of it, I left hungry for more. As I entered, the smell of soil gathered in a promising mound on stage, mixed with a vinyl record playing on a portable record player created a relaxed atmosphere with just the right level of anticipation.

Emma is as warm as she is engaging.  Already in situ as the audience arrived, she was making the stage her own before uttering a word.  As we got settled she was unafraid to make direct eye-contact with the audience and offer her greetings.  This felt different, and it very definitely worked.  The stage contained soil, water, clay, wood and metal scaffolding.  The strong elemental theme underlined her script perfectly as she used the objects to literally build the world around her on stage, whilst also telling us of how she ‘built’ (and continues to build) herself.  This universal theme of self-creation and self-fulfilment was at once accessible to all, but, suitably,  made very much her own on stage.

The work was part of an ongoing collaboration with Abby Butcher entitled ‘None of Us is Yet a Robot’ which examines the politics of gender transition and gender identity in general.  The trans experience, and certainly the trans body has a frustrating and abusive history of being fetishised in the arts, but here it was discussed and loved on Emma’s own terms.  She digs around in the dirt, she risks injury with wood chopping, she climbs higher and higher on the scaffolding, taking herself to new heights literally and well as figuratively.  Progress rather than perfection seems to be the order of the day, and it struck the right chord.

Anyone who has ever had an identity, anyone who has ever wanted, or needed, change, anyone who has wanted to exist on their own terms will find solace and inspiration here.  As Frankland declares herself, from her scaffold tower down to us looking up to her, “To allow ourselves to heal is the radical act”.  The world needs to hear more from the mind of Emma Frankland.

©JD 2017


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