Writing for ‘Etch’ with Exim Dance Company by Natalie McGrath


It was hard to believe that the rehearsal process was over so quickly.  It was a brilliant three weeks collaborating as a writer with Claire Summers and the team making ‘Etch’ for Exim Dance Company. I absolutely loved it and the challenge presented.

I learnt so much.

From listening in to the dancers Laura, Lucy, Vicky & Heather move, improvise, connect, show, speak.

From seeing Meier’s costumes designs take shape.

From slowly understanding the space and its hidden gems that the company were creating for audiences.

From Magdalena’s music, and the way she found harmony in some lines I had scribbled down.

From the way stories unfolded and tales got told.

From thinking about how the work is accessed in conversation with the company, Luke and early stage audience members who were so generous in their responses.

From Claire’s open approach to the collaboration, her ability to make decisions swiftly and the chance to work with the range of artists on board due to this process.

From sounds and smells and tastes in the hidden world of the boxes onstage.

There were herbs and the private mixicology of making tea taking centre stage!  Massage and the magic of coconut oil.

For me it was a process primarily about of tuning in, recording phrases, words, the content of some of the conversations that were taking place, responding to what I heard.

Watching, absorbing the sounds being made, the angles found.  Making an angle of my own.

I became fascinated with capturing echoes of the memories and stories being shared, and what might happen if it collides with the outside world.

Writing in a way is listening:


under water

beyond blue


then up for air



Text emerges. Kind of poems start to form.

Mnemosyne and the Nine Muses land in front of me, allowing me another way of finding another angle as a way in with text.  A structure.  Fusing some classical ideas with fragments of the dancers speech, written down words and from improvisations proves useful. Powerful.  It is clear I have written something that cannot all be spoken in the body of the work, so we make a small booklet of the text.

A sensory space emerged.

A space that invites an audience in to the world of the dancers as a prologue to the main body of the work itself.  They are not mutually exclusive.  One feeds the other and it was exciting to witness how the audience in Exeter absorbed this, were curious about it and wanted to stay and continue to talk about it after the main performance work.

Memory as a scratch on our surfaces



Memories as they

Weave and collide

To an etch

Thanks to all involved.  Looking forward to catching Etch in 2017.


Natalie McGrath is a playwright, sometimes a poet, and Co-Director of Dreadnought South West www.dreadnoughtsouthwest.org.uk .  She is also an Associate Lecturer in the department of Theatre and Performance at Plymouth University.


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