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Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - NEWS - In­ter­view/ Britt Mann Pho­to­graph/ Ja­son Dorday

Eleanor Bishop (left), 31, and Ju­lia Croft, 33, are theatre mak­ers. Their new show, ex­plores women’s sex­u­al­ity. JU­LIA/ We were liv­ing in Welling­ton at the same time; she would have been at univer­sity, and I was at drama school. We were both start­ing to make theatre. But we didn’t re­ally be­come friends for an­other eight years.

I al­ways thought she hated me. She’s a to­tal boss lady who seems to al­ways be mak­ing cool stuff and be­ing hy­per pro­duc­tive... She just has a no-non­sense ap­proach which I read as: “Well, she doesn’t like me very much.”

We were both liv­ing in New York in 2014. I’d just moved there and didn’t re­ally know many peo­ple. It was a bit of a gam­ble but I sent her a mes­sage go­ing: “Hey, I’m in the city, maybe we should have a drink.” I was re­ally ner­vous, but we dis­cov­ered, ac­tu­ally, we have heaps in com­mon. We started see­ing each other all the time, go­ing to shows to­gether, then sit­ting in dive bars pick­ing them apart, and talk­ing about stuff we wanted to make.

As you move through the world in a fe­male body, you’re deal­ing with crap a lot of the time. I think both me and Eleanor have a healthy sense of anger about that.

Our pol­i­tics are re­ally sim­i­lar, but how that man­i­fests in our work is quite dif­fer­ent. I tend to come at works from a more in­stinc­tual place and make work that’s more cen­tred on the body. Eleanor is way smarter than me, way more con­cep­tu­ally and in­tel­lec­tu­ally clean.

Eleanor’s work deals more ex­plic­itly with vi­o­lence than mine does. Mak­ing work about sex and sex­u­al­ity in­evitably gets into some murky ter­ri­to­ries around vi­o­lence and I think Eleanor’s work has re­ally made me look at mi­cro ag­gres­sions and mi­cro acts of vi­o­lence in ways I may not have in the past or a few years ago.

The show uses a lot of au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal texts. It’s quite fright­en­ing to un­pack your ro­man­tic life pub­licly. We’ve all laid out some things on the ta­ble that have been re­ally sur­pris­ing. Eleanor is an in­ter­na­tional woman of mys­tery. In many ways, she’s way gut­sier than I am as a per­son. Some of her sto­ries, I just ab­so­lutely could not do that, or have done that. I feel slightly timid in com­par­i­son some­times. I feel like I’m quite chaotic as a per­son, she’s got such a strong level of self-aware­ness about her life and her choices.

Body Dou­ble leans into some dif­fi­cult ques­tions. One likes to think of sex as some­thing that is sep­a­rate from pol­i­tics and you get to a cer­tain age and re­alise that a lot of the in­equity in the wider cul­ture is hap­pen­ing in par­tic­u­lar het­ero­sex­ual re­la­tion­ships. Both of us have a shared ob­ses­sion with Chris Kraus and I Love Dick, ask­ing ques­tions of what it means to be a het­ero­sex­ual woman and a fem­i­nist, and those things some­times feel­ing like they’re mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive.

We’ve both made works about some­thing that’s re­ally f…ed up. Both of us are now want­ing to make works that also pro­pose some kind of… hope. There can and should be joy in hav­ing this con­ver­sa­tion as well. Be­cause sex can be great. ELEANOR/ When we were both in New York in 2014, I think we were both like: “Oh, that’s a New Zealan­der! Maybe I should hang out with that per­son.” I think we both thought the other one didn’t like us. But we started hang­ing out and go­ing to lots of fem­i­nist per­for­mance art and fem­i­nist theatre.

We’d al­ways get the sub­way home to­gether, we both lived in Brook­lyn. One time af­ter we’d gone to see this fem­i­nist per­former – Ann Liv Young – we were just talk­ing so much that I think Ju­lia had to get off first and we were still say­ing things to each other as she was get­ting out of the train and the doors were about to close.

The We­in­stein al­le­ga­tions, we both have a kind of, fa­tigue, around that stuff. It feels like it’s an­other thing that’s hap­pened in a se­ries of pub­lic events around sex­ual as­sault and ha­rass­ment. It feels dif­fer­ent to two or three years ago where I think we were both pas­sion­ately furious. Now we’re just furious.

Yes­ter­day somebody asked Ju­lia is the show – Body Dou­ble – for women, or men, or both? Ju­lia’s like: “The show’s for women, I al­ways make shoes for women.” And I think we dis­agree a lit­tle bit on that. I think it’s re­ally im­por­tant to have women-cen­tred spa­ces and then I also re­ally want men to be al­lies in the thing we’re all fight­ing against.

I’m the di­rec­tor but our re­la­tion­ship is one of co-cre­ators, we’re cre­at­ing the work to­gether with Karin [McCracken] – the other per­former. We’ve done heaps of writ­ing about our lives and talk­ing about Tin­der and peo­ple we’ve had sex with – bad sex­ual ex­pe­ri­ences and good sex­ual ex­pe­ri­ences – that’s been re­ally fun. But try­ing to wran­gle it into a thing that makes sense but doesn’t try to solve ev­ery­thing has been re­ally dif­fi­cult.

Ju­lia is an in­cred­i­ble per­former – so fear­less – and I just love watch­ing her. She does things I’d never even imag­ine could hap­pen on a stage. She has to dunk her head in a bucket of wa­ter for as long as she pos­si­bly can, so she de­lib­er­ately loses her breath. In the next scene, when she has to jump around, she is even more tired.

I’ve re­alised how much we have in com­mon with falling in love, falling out of love, this thing of be­ing women that care re­ally deeply or feel re­ally in­tensely and how that’s not con­sid­ered ap­pro­pri­ate, of­ten, in our so­ci­ety.

I’m a lit­tle bit more ef­fu­sive. I al­ways want to tell her about how much I love her and care about her [laughs] but I think it’s some­times too much. So she’s like: “Yup. Good.” I know she feels it! Body Dou­ble plays Novem­ber 9-25 at Bats Theatre, Welling­ton, and at the Auck­land Arts Fes­ti­val in March next year.

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