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Theatre Deli XL Residency: Our next show is officially in development!

It's all happened a bit quickly over here... It feels like just yesterday that we got the wonderful news that we had been selected for Theatre Deli's 2022 XL Residency, in which they supported us to develop our next piece with two weeks of rehearsal space, artists' fees, seed money and mentoring. And now we've only gone and finished it!

For this piece, we're again dipping into autobiographical material from founder Nell Hardy: this time, the story takes inspiration from her six-year struggle to get her disclosures to the Church of England about abuse she suffered at the hands of a few members of the clergy. But whereas NoMad was direct lived experience, I, Lord takes a few factual starting points and weaves a wider narrative around them that brings out other aspects of the modern world's problematic relationship with religion (and vice versa!).

The result is a play that unfolds as if the action is a set of daydreams during a service of worship, containing storylines around Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, non-denominational spiritual practices, and the habits - helpful and unhelpful - that we take on in our lives when we need to fill our spiritual voids.

So few people ever talk about spiritual abuse. But how many of us, inside and outside religious structures, can say we have the freedom to live entirely by our own moral values? And what do we lose by trying to cut ourselves off from the need to reflect on what those are?

We brought on the most spectacular co-directing team in Nell Bailey and Layla Madanat, and have also benefited hugely from the consultancy of Jordana Belaiche, founding member of BIPOC collective of artists and spiritual practitioners Don't Tell The Village Elders, and inspiring initial sound concepts from Radhika Aggarwal and Lorenzo Lassignani of Echo Chamber Audio. Pictures show us taking part in some amazing rituals to understand a variety of cultural spiritual practices, and some of the instruments we jammed with to create our internal and external settings.

We feel so fortunate to be supported by Survivors' Voices in the development of this project, who will be helping us to make the show as accessible as possible to survivors of spiritual abuse, and to hone our current outreach methodology towards survivors and towards spiritual leaders, so we can be part of a culture of making places of worship and reflection the safe spaces they should be.

Right - time to get our planning hats on for how to get this show made! Thanks so much to everyone who came to our rehearsed reading last week and gave us some really valuable feedback. Some of the most encouraging comments we've had so far:

"Moved to tears by the resonances this had for a spiritual abuse survivor, battling unfit church systems; & left in hope. First time I have ever seen echoes of my story performed. Such a profound experience"

"This is a story about a woman struggling to reconstruct her inner spiritual life in the wake of events that have shaken it to its core."

"Not only was it very, very clearly about the issue you wanted it to be about, it was also theatrically exciting and mature in terms of the dramaturgical language"

"The sound really pushed the performance and loved it. Really transported the audience."

A massive, massive thank you to the whole team at Theatre Deli, who have been amazing from start to finish! Can't wait to continue this journey with you and with the wonderful artists, activists and practitioners we've already met along the way.

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