On BURNOUT, Old Feelings and New Endings

On BURNOUT, Old Feelings and New Endings

On BURNOUT, Old Feelings, and New Endings

To Howie. Thanks for stealing the show, you little rascal. 

“Because he knows that he always gets where he wants to. I respect that. I think it’s really inspirational to just watch someone slow the fuck down. And umm… yeah. He really likes bananas by the way.” Fern, BURNOUT, 2023

BURNOUT has a new ending.

For those of you who live under a rock and don’t know what BURNOUT is, it’s a one-woman show I wrote earlier this year. A somewhat unimaginatively-titled testament to the Mordor of the twenty first century dating my generation has to plough through. 

And for those of you who have seen its first iteration, what probably struck you the most was its original ending. Spoiler alert, Fern adopts a tortoise, the play closes on a metaphor for slowing the fuck down, and the vast majority of her poignant monologue is ignored by the swooning crowd because live animals on stage are the dirtiest trick in the theatre maker’s handbook. Don’t worry, he’s alive and well. However…

For a play written with the idea of touring in mind, I certainly didn’t think that one through.

Needless to say, it is unsustainable to travel with a tortoise. His whole “I will poo on your carpet fifteen minutes before the house opens” tantrum aside, Howie has a new terrarium, roughly the size of an average London flat, and ever since his house-warming party, he has been reluctant to abandon it. As a fellow creature of habit, I entirely second and support his new lifestyle choices and wish him the best of luck. 

So yes. Fern needed a new ending. But it’s hard to top a marginata.

BURNOUT might not be a real story about real people but it is a real play about real feelings. 

It was a sad spring. I wrote because I had to. I wrote and wrote and wrote until it rang true. That’s when I stopped writing, stapled the nineteen or so pages of text together and rang Aneta to read it out to me. I did not plan to write this play, it found me. And I was as surprised by her emergence as some of you may have been. 

And so, to be faced with the conundrum of replacing an already-written truth by a brand new one, was intimidating. Every alternative I came up with felt contrived, almost a little too polished, and lacked the rawness of the rest of the text, irrespective of the amount of Taylor Swift I was listening to for inspiration. 

Soon enough, BURNOUT started to echo Swan Lake – it had about seven different endings, one of which was not too far off from dark forest wizardry. The options and combinations seemed endless, my patience however, was not. And though Aneta placed unwavering trust into my ability to waddle out of my own play, ending a full run with the monologue prior to the finale was the theatrical equivalent of blue balling. If I managed to keep my cool until then, the incomplete rehearsals were what made me antsy. 

And then, two weeks before the second run of the show, an epiphany struck. 

It was neither healthy, nor feasible to get into the exact same headspace BURNOUT came from, for it stemmed from the dark and lonely places your heart can take you through. But as much as I liked the idea of Howie and what he represented and as much as I loved the audience response he invoked, I never really trusted Fern’s final words. Deep down I knew the text came out of a place of necessity to wrap the whole thing up somehow, rather than from lived experience. It echoed improbable thoughts, desires for a hypothetical headspace somewhere in the future, and an urgent need to find a silver lining during a time when everything presented itself to me in absolutes. 

But now, some months down the line, having gone through the cartwheel of heartbreak, I was standing in her shoes. The only question I had to ask myself was:

“Well, how are you now?”

And then the words came flooding. 

What started as a writing prompt born out of an entirely practical set of considerations, turned the play into a more personal testament of one’s healing journey. And though the closing image might be an entirely different one, it is the truest it has ever been. 

And yah, you’ve guessed it. To learn Fern’s answer to the most fundamental question, you’ll need to come see the show. Again. 

October 6&7th. BURNOUT, Vol. 2. 


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