Resilience Talks Ted

We wanted to create a spectacle that was unique.

In Guildford last week, Resilience+Co presented a new performance piece at the TedX event. By now, we’re well used to speaking at meetings and conferences about how we recovered from setback, but this was a chance to deliver our material in a much more dramatic and powerful way. We spoke for just fifteen minutes, but our talk was crammed full of our personal experience of sepsis – both from a survivor’s and a carer’s point of view.

I was physically deconstructed and reconstructed in front of the audience, as Nic removed and then refitted my prosthetic limbs.

We wrote the words quickly.    

After what we’ve been through, after Starfish the film and Starfish the book, we’re well used to telling our story. But TedX offered us a different kind of opportunity to speak publicly about sudden loss and slow rehabilitation, finding a new voice and a fresh physical approach. We dared to be bold. So, no slides, no PowerPoint, no clips from our movie. Instead, Nic and I reflected the raw reality of how human beings cling to each other in crisis, giving each other strength, rebuilding, taking care over the things that really matter. We know about that stuff.

We prepared meticulously.

Sepsis has left me with learning difficulties in that I find it hard to remember things – but I was determined to be ‘off the book’. I trained as an actor so I know how important this is – the direct eye to eye contact with the audience is what really matters. So, for weeks I’ve been out walking and rehearsing my lines, over and over. And because our material is so very personal, borne of true experience, I found that committing it to memory came easier than expected. Nic did the same, so we could perform in the moment, looking into each other’s eyes.

Our business manager arranged a private performance the night before.          

In London, on the south bank of the river. The audience was just 10 strong, so you could say the setting was intimate. At such close range, as a performer, you have to employ subtle skills – engaging and disengaging with the people sitting literally right in front of you. As I was showing the stumps of my arms and the stumps of my legs, we were operating on the edge of normal. But we were good. Our performance is about truth, we feel it deeply, and I think that shone through.

The next day, we took to the TedX stage, in front of cameras and a much bigger audience.

 By this point, we were fully prepared. Within 3 minutes, I was sitting centre stage on my fold-out stool, with my prosthetic arms and legs missing. I felt naked in front of everyone. Audiences so rarely see the physical reality of amputation and find it hard to understand the realities of disability. I want to change that. Nic took me apart in front of hundreds of people, but after a few minutes, strangely, I felt whole. Finally, I turned to Nic: “…thank you for sticking by me and bringing me back to life. Thank you for saving me.”