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.