As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be an egg on legs.
Perhaps I hoped to succeed where Humpty Dumpty had failed. Or perhaps, like Sheldon from Orson’s farm, I wanted to carry that protective layer about me, so that wherever I was I was ‘always home’. In any case, when the opportunity arose, I leapt at it.
I had been working with the Royal Society for the Pursuit of Lovebirds (RSPLB: expert dating agency & amateur birdwatching society) for a year or two before the idea hatched. Founding mothers Celia Willis and Lottie Leedham suggested we could make my dream a reality, and I would be the perfect mascot for the bird club. With their contacts in the art world, they reeled in artist Tim Spooner, and the vision came alive. Tim experimented with fabrics and designs and arrived at the egg as we know it today - soft felt panels over concentric plastic hoops, with a tall inner hat that enables the pleasing shell-to-leg ratio. Designed to be transportable, it folds like a pop up tent.
There is something magical about being inside the egg. It is soothing but disorientating. With bare legs exposed, you are positioned in the outside world, but with no eyes or arm holes, vulnerable to the whim of humans, who seem intent on challenging your authority to be there. The anthropoid legs escaping a giant shell seem to intrigue and alarm, they want answers - what are you doing here? Who are you? What are you in there for?
Inside the egg for long periods of time makes one introverted. The shouts of strangers who you can’t see glide off your shell - you no longer care to respond. You think things, make up songs, shuffle around wondering what it is like to be out in the light. And then one day you crack.
I wanted to hatch, but I did not want to be a chicken, because a chicken has already arrived. There is nothing interesting in the being that has already arrived. So, I emerge as a yolk. Immediately the story came alive. I was a yolk, experiencing for the first time our human world, with all its alien hierarchies and idiosyncrasies. The freshness of her eyes allowed me to ask the audience to similarly look at our world from this new perspective. She starts, of course, at the bottom. Scrambling around in the rubbish dump, trying to make sense of what she finds, which in the end is not that much.
The tragedy of the tale is that though the yolk has not yet arrived, her first act of hatching already renders true arrival impossible: she will never be able to become the chicken she could have. She is destined to end up as no more than a meal on somebody else’s plate.
This metaphor asks us to look at the mechanics of power and privilege. What chances are there for those who are not born as chickens? Though she may rise up the ranks and realise her true potential, it is necessarily thwarted even as she has entered the stage. Referencing Blade Runner I use the film’s end theme for the backing to Egg’s final song ‘What Came First?’ It is a coming-of-age moment when she realises her possibility but also the limitations standing in the way of her ever using it; though they may look like equals the androids will only ever be permitted to serve humans. She quotes replicant Roy Batty:
‘Quite an experience living in fear, isn’t it? This is what it means to be a slave!’
Thus, she is fried. As her spirit rise to heaven she says,
‘If there is one thing I regret it is that I never reached my potential, I thought it was so much smaller than it actually was. They told me I was just an object and I believed them, and because of that I never truly hatched. I moved about the world like it was a giant pan and I was checking its very edges, but I never jumped out into the fire.’
Egg will be performed on Friday 3rd March & Saturday 4th March at 7.15pm at Camden People's Theatre.