Brixton writer and comedian Rosie Wilby is back this summer with a show that challenges the modern romantic break up. Ruth Waters found out about outspoken Rosie’s stance on the new break up ideal, conscious uncoupling, which has inspired her show.
Have you ever consciously uncoupled?
Yes. I’m in a platonic partnership with someone who originally wanted to have a romantic relationship with me. Because we’ve taken the time to do this respectfully, this central friendship will survive us both having new romantic partners.
She’s a reliable, intelligent, funny, cool person. I can’t afford to lose her just because that’s supposedly a part of ‘moving on’.
Do you think we’re evolved enough to do it?
It takes work, thought and communication but, yes, I think we can do it. It depends how motivated you are to save the good parts of the connection.
What drew you to this subject for your latest show?
My own personal experience made it a matter of urgency for me. I had heard the phrase back when Gwyneth and Chris had used it but felt, like most people, I had no idea what they were talking about. But when I dug a little deeper, I realised that the concept behind it chimes with a lot of the ideas I’ve had about relationships -I don’t believe that we can replace one person with another. We are all unique and not just disposable, throwaway vessels.
So, in my mind, conscious uncoupling is a little bit like polyamory. You accept that your relationship with your ex is still alive in some way, even if the romance and sex are long gone, and that it can co-exist alongside new connections. I see my ex-partners as ‘family’ because we have shared history and they’re a part of me.
The main issue with regular breakup is that is generally one-sided and there’s usually one party who is left in shock and grief.
What’s the matter with the regular break up pattern of panic, desperation, self loathing and denial?
Well, you’ve clearly answered your own question there! Breaking up, as we know it, is just awful.
The main issue with regular breakup is that is generally one-sided and there’s usually one party who is left in shock and grief. The aftermath can be similar to PTSD and can cause real lasting brain damage. There’s not enough scientific research done yet but it does seem that there are different types of people with brains that can either get over something quickly or possibly never recover. So, we need to take breakup seriously and not just inflict this on a fellow human flippantly.
Unless your partner turns out to be a psychopathic murderer and you are worried about your physical safety, or your kids’ safety, then why would you do it to someone you once cared for? If you can discuss, negotiate and alter the relationship collaboratively, then it feels like both parties have some input and control.
Assuming your show isn’t actually self help, what’s the journey you take the audience on?
I interweave a romantic narrative about two people meeting with their eventual breakup emails and the visits of three ghosts who bring some insights into the nature of love and nostalgia. It is based on an old break up which happened to me five years ago. Because we didn’t have the language or tools back then to ‘consciously uncouple’, it did end up spiky and difficult.
Have you had many people crying with tears of recognition in the audience? Or nervous laughter?
Laughter of recognition definitely! A friend texted me hours after the London premiere and said she and her mates were still discussing it and recounting all their own stories over dinner.
Naturally, there is a bit of Coldplay too. That is used in a slightly more tongue-in-cheek way though! Chris Martin’s creative output hasn’t helped me much at all.
For many people their musical taste reaches a new low post break up. Why did you decide to include music in your show?
I have a musician friend who did a dissertation all about how people use music after a breakup. It’s fascinating. It really does seem to help us in some way. Even the songs that trigger a memory and make us feel temporarily worse are part of a process.
I include some Richard Hawley music in the show because he was an artist that my ex and I loved and who I had struggled to listen to again. It’s been nice to reconnect with his work. Naturally, there is a bit of Coldplay too. That is used in a slightly more tongue-in-cheek way though! Chris Martin’s creative output hasn’t helped me much at all.
Any favorite break up or conscious uncoupling songs to share with us from your past, your show or both?
Fleetwood Mac Go Your Own Way is our pre-show music. I know all their splits were very dramatic but they managed to keep the band together and channel the pain constructively into great songs.
How would you feel if watching your show inspired a conscious uncoupling?
I would love that! I worry though that one person would want it and their (ex)partner wouldn’t and would then be cross with me for planting these hippy-dippy bohemian ideas in their heads. I can see how it all seems a bit pretentious. But it’s better than being horrible and hurting one another.
Catch Rosie’s show, The Conscious Uncoupling, at The Dogstar on 14 July, or at the Camden Fringe Festival and Festival of Love. Find out more at www.rosiewilby.com and read our full interview with Rosie here