The words that Sara Alexander writes in her guest post are quite timely for me as I turn inwards and reflect on what I need to do to reclaim parts of my self that have become buried in amongst the labels we’re so good at giving ourselves. I hope they resonate with you as much as they have for me.
Relationships make the world go round, and not just the romantic kind, or sexual, familial nor professional. The relationship to our Self is often the most important intimate one we can ever explore, fear, shelve or suffocate. The unpicking of this inner world is one where the form of a novel is most adept. In a novel a writer can take their time to tip toe, stomp or run carefree inside the labyrinth of a character’s expressed and unexpressed desires and fears. In my third novel, a powerful but complicated relationship is at its heart. And its not a romantic one alone, but also related to how much trust and expression the protagonist is able to give to her own inner drive, vulnerabilities and passions.
Time had it that I would be working on the most bold, beautiful and bonkers play I have ever performed in to date, about shame free female sexuality and sensuality, in the same period as I was working on my book. The play was a project that required me to relinquish all squeamish reactions to powerful, challenging and intimate conversations, improvisations, discussions over several years, culminating in a full run of the gorgeous show funded by the Arts Council. It required trust on my part, to share myself whole heartedly with my colleagues, to feel the fear of tackling so vast a subject with an open heart and a willingness to probe my own vulnerabilities and internalised messages about who I ought to be as a woman, in my life, in the arts, as a maker.
We’ve been asked about the challenges of portraying sex on stage but rather, our aim was to portray what sexuality felt like. We were interested in the female desire that instigates those sensations, how that urge is suffocated, ignored, handled without care or respect and the traumatic repercussions of this fractured relationship with the Self. It’s the same place I love to explore in my novels. I don’t skim over the intimate scenes, because this is where my characters reveal their inner essence, the flicker of energy that makes them unique, they are sensual moments, tactile, vivid, powerful.
Within the play and novel is a universal narrative: the tension between who we are born as, who we learn to be and how we return to our original selves when we can find the courage to accept it in all its mess, colours, murky shadows and blinding light.
The arts serve to offer us glimpses of ourselves, shards of light that touch our hidden places, space to celebrate what we don’t give ourselves credit for, time to grieve what or who we have lost. Anyone working in the arts holds this responsibility, and powerful invitation; to harness the courage and vulnerability to explore intimacy and relationships with freedom, unanswered questions, passion and curiosity.
Sara Alexander’s third novel, The Last Concerto, publishes 22nd August by HQ.
Famed for its natural beauty and rich history, Sardinia in 1968 is notorious, too, for the bandits who kidnap wealthy landowners for ransom. Eleven-year-old Alba Fresu’s brother, and her father, Bruno, are abducted by criminals who mistake Bruno for a rich man. After a grueling journey through the countryside, the two are eventually released―but the experience leaves Alba shaken and unable to readjust to normal life, or to give voice to her inner turmoil.
Accompanying her mother to cleaning jobs, Alba visits the villa of an eccentric Signora and touches the keys of a piano for the first time. The instrument’s spell is immediate. During secret lessons, forbidden by her mother, Alba is at last able to express emotions too powerful for words alone. Ignoring her parents’ insistence that she work in the family’s car dealership and marry a local boy, Alba accepts a scholarship to the Rome conservatoire. There she immerses herself in a vibrant world of art and a passionate affair.
But her path will lead her to a crossroads, and Alba will have to decide how to reconcile her talent with her longing for love and family, and convey the music of her heart …
Sara Alexander is a British-Sardinian actress and author born and raised in North-West London. She studied Theatre, Film and Television at the University of Bristol, followed by a diploma in acting from Drama Studio London. She has been performing professionally in theatre, film television and audio for over thirty years. Her activing work includes Sparrow directed by Franco Zeffirelli, Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 1, productions at the The Royal Shakespeare Company, National Theatre and starring as series regular and guest spots in television productions for the BBC and ITV. In May 2019 she played a clitoris in ‘Rejoicing at Her Wondrous Vulva, the Woman Applauded Herself’ which is currently being adapted for TV by ‘Killing Eve’ Producer Sid Gentle.
Sara has published two novels with HarperCollins imprint HQ, each inspired by her roots in Sardinia where she regularly returns. Her third novel, The Last Concerto, is published in August 2019 and is set between Sardinia and Rome.
Sara lives in a noisy house with her husband Cory English, a leading Broadway/West End actor, their two sons and their Sardinian-Brit grandparents.
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