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Film to Stage

Sally Potter

fortyfive downstairs

Melbourne, AU


It's a knock-out: elegant, beautiful, intelligent, passionate theatre. It is the kind of theatre that devours your whole attention without your quite noticing. And at the end you are relesed, at once exhausted and nourished, into the complexities of your own life.

Alison Croggon, Theatre Notes.

Yes directed by Tanya Gerstle makes the stage sexy and dangerous. It is a beautifully wrought, physical adaptation.

Kate Herbert, Herald Sun.


Director's Perspective


"In the theatre the imagination fills the space whereas the cinema screen represents the whole, demanding that everything in the frame be linked in a logically coherent manner" Peter Brook


What emerged through the process of bringing this film to the stage was the unanticipated emphasis on the body: how the actor's body paints the space through direct physical experience and memory. The body, as content, as image and as witness. How thinking with the body and not working from the mind allows for surprising meetings on the rehearsal floor as the body of the actor responds to lust, desire, power and conflict. How the restrained emotional landscape of unspoken feelings in the film text lends itself perfectly to a physicalisation of this deep undercurrent.


"Desire is as much to do with the taking away of the other's pain as with the mutual pursuit of pleaseure. ...It is an alternative, shared use of physical energy and the special lucidity of the body to bestow, if only for a brief moment, an exemption. The body is everywhere in your film..."

John Berger in a letter to Sally Potter


The Dance of the Personal and the Political

In the late 1960s James Baldwin wrote that Western nations "have been caught in a lie, the lie of their pretended humanism; this means that their history has no moral justification, and that the West has no moral authority... This lie, has become a global problem..." It has led to bitterness and resentment, described today as the "rage of the Muslim world". Sally Potter wrote YES after September 11. She felt an "urgent need to respond to the rapid demonisation of the Arabic world in the West and the parallel wave of hatred against the United States". When I saw the film I was overwhelmed by the distillation of such large ideas and fascinated by the revelation of the Muslim experience through the vision of a Western artist. For me it is about understanding the deeply felt pain of 'the other' in the context of privileged bourgeois complacency. The last lines of James Joyce's Ulysses inspired Potter. "I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will yes."


Ultimately uttering YES in the face of violence, suffering and disappointment is the only choice. It is an act of redemption.





Adaptation, Design and Direction: Tanya Gerstle

Lighting Design: Richard Whitehouse

Soundscape Design: Terry Ryan in collaboration with Andrew Gray and Carl Nilsson-Polias

Performance Ensemble: Grant Cartwright, Carl Nilsson-Polias, Meredith Penman, Tim Potter, Anne-Louise Sarks, Ella Watson-Russell (Original Cast: Benedict Hardy and Terry Yeboah)

Guest Artists: Gary Abrahams and Kane Felsinger

Stage Management: Canada White

Producer: Darren Natale

Green Room Nomination

Best Female Performer: Meredith Penman

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