The ancient proverb “necessity is the mother of invention” came to mind while interviewing young actress/playwright Nicola Moerman writes Peter Tromp. The 23-year-old’s primary field of study was in becoming an actress, but upon graduating from UCT’s Theatre and Performance school last year she found herself – like so many students who are jettisoned into the real, uncaring professional world – completely unsure of what to do with herself.
As someone who comes across as allergic to resting on her laurels and who freely admits to being an anxious individual all her life, Moerman plumbed her personal “psychoses” and channelled it all into a play with the ultimate hope of it resulting in gainful employment. “I decided not to wait for the work to come to me, but rather to create the work myself. Who knows how long you’ll end up waiting for something to fall in your lap? I wasn’t going to take that chance,” she says.
Her prayers were answered in the form of the Artscape New Writing programme, which a benevolent friend informed her about. “It was a godsend, because opportunities like this for creatives new to the industry are not exactly plentiful,” Moerman reflects.
To her astonishment, her submitted work was accepted and now audiences will get to see – almost literally – what goes on in the mind of this interesting individual. ‘The Third Force’ will open on October 2 at the Artscape Arena and according to its author, visualises and verbalises what happens when anxiety boils over into a full on emotional episode. “When I experience a panic attack, what would that look like if it was a group of people having a conversation in my brain? That was the starting off point,” says Moerman.
The play’s genesis can be traced back all the way to the FeesMustFall movement, during which a myriad of emotions were triggered within Moerman. “It is in many ways a student-inspired piece. As someone who has felt silenced many times throughout my life, I felt inspired by those students who felt they needed to make their voices heard loud and clear.”
Moerman, who wears hearing aids, admits to a kind of self-enforced censorship her entire life, but she felt ready to rip off the duct tape, metaphorically speaking (although there is literal duct tape in the production). “Asking people to repeat themselves is often not worth the effort; people generally don’t appreciate it, so I kind of just got used to being misunderstood. I think I was trying to give myself a voice.
“So, yes – the play started out with quite a selfish goal in mind,” Moerman laughs, “but then I found that many of my friends grappled with similar feelings, and the idea spiralled from there.”
The crystallisation point occurred when Moerman started having panic attacks after performances in the final year of her drama course. “I wanted to acknowledge that people go through panic attacks, and it’s OK. It was very therapeutic for me to explore that in my writing, and acknowledge it for myself.”
Moerman would be delighted if ‘The Third Force’ is similarly healing for anyone who sees it. “One thing I hope is that people experience some cathartic release of their own.”