Fabulous Phoebe is a campaign film.
Phoebe has a story to tell. Hers is one familiar to millions of women around the world. Covid has made it worse. But Fabulous Phoebe is not just about one woman, or indeed all women. It is about the feminine. In Greek mythology, Phoebe was a Titan, complete with gold crown. She was the daughter of Uranus (the sky) and Gaia (the Earth). The poem talks not just about Phoebe’s abuse at the hands of her partner, but also (as laid out in James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis), of mother Earth’s plight.
The feminine “out there and in here” is the subject of this film. Please click on Lend a Hand below to see what you can do to help people like Phoebe.
There she goes bang on cue, hair up, made up – at half past two!
She’s stepping over litter like a heron in heels to steel some feels
with that feller from the baker’s with the really nice wheels.
She’ll be back before hubby’s home that’s for certain.
Freshly baked bread for her beast of burden.
Lock-down Laura we call her in our smaller ‘just the four of us’ group.
We left our lives on the big screen, stepped out of our films
to sit in rows in this panelled scene, here we are, nattering boxes
of the boozed and the botoxed: three silver foxes and me.
My neck looked old, but… I noticed my hair’s growing back. Am I paroled?
He texts me now. He’s only in there! Still in jimjams at this time, watching the world
from two metres, chewing on chips with sips of wife-beater, he calls it.
I’m sheltered but he’s on his helter-skelter of pill popping and non-stop channel hopping.
I won’t go shopping! He asked me to go! Jaw dropping, I know. I said so.
Look at the sky though, isn’t it blue! Young, true smooth air. Not run through
like an old teddy bear, with white slices through stitches into its belly.
No planes slicing lines a thousand times from here to New Delhi,
from Berlin to Boston, ha! from Stansted to Sitges!
Oh the beaches there!
I walked streets in bare feet there, pulled peaches off trees there!
It’s bluer than blue. Deeper than sky blue. Like water, like sea blue.
I remember his eyes drew me in.
What was his name?
all the way
riding me into the sand
(Incoming text sounds)
Oh, hello it’s the slumbering grouch. What now for the King of the Couch?
The Loafer on the Sofa! The Yeti on the Settee! What next for Mister Text,
the man of my dreams, another beer for my dear who is bursting his seams?
What next can I do for you, sex if you want me to, how would you like it?
Once more on the carpet with yesterday’s food, by that bowl of old beans
under last week’s jeans, the crushed-down cans and chop suey greens;
pushing me down onto shag-pile brown oh, go on then, make me a queen!
I’m a princess in this tower. A royal with no power to leave. I need to weave my hair,
plait into rope to fling into the path of a passing knight. No hope of eloping for me this night.
I did have dreams before he kissed me (so well) and well,
that’s history written for that smitten fool.
Is this all I am? Her sad mother’s daughter, a pauper that ought to just sort her sad life out before I reach for the rope. Perhaps I need to find water to hose down this slaughter of hope?
He gave me a slap for moping about. He said I’d cope, that he’d blacken my eye if I cried.
Yet somewhere, the planet breathed in. Planes fell out of the sky, the streets became ancient tracks again, silent and sunlit, cutting into unlit towns with no one around to see it.
I need to leave, but as what? Into what new dawn?
Everyone out there is armed but most don’t know they’re killers. Milling about,
just chilling out, killing time or making a shilling but packing some ammo for me.
I’m going out tomorrow for mister’s essentials: gin and pot noodles, tobacco and beer.
But I tell you, I have layer upon layer of fear.
I went out! A breeze! I had forgotten how air moves when freed.
Out there it invaded me, a silky assault. I turned and walked to the trees.
My roots were exposed like stocking tops and I was a scandal of grey
like I’m out in my slippers or wearing no knickers right in the heat of the day.
I cried when people tried to avoid me, keeping their distance in single file, throwing a smile and once in a while saying hi. Some frowned at the ground before stepping around me,
the distance between us, the width of a car, the length of a laid-out man.
I watched a woman under a tree with skin as white as icing, lying on scented sheets,
blinking through petals as her kids high up were shaking down pink blossom bedding
for her, a wedding for one.
She saw me and threw me a shawl of laughter, daring me to wear it.
I did and fires blazed in me. I could barely stand, dazed by it.
In an instant I was four, on the back of my father’s bike, tucked into a bucket thing,
his sea-blue jacket billowing, I traced its smooth curve with my finger, pressed my nose to it, lingered there, he smelled of ginger bread from the picnic. I let the wind own me.
I had cold knees and it pleased me that I suffered in silence, all grown up.
This sky and this wheezing Earth, he said, had once known love.
Love-locked, he said and called me his fabulous Phoebe.
Earlier I had hidden in wildflowers and cowered down wearing a crown of buttercups, supping up summer. He was coughing even then.
Is it just me that wants to stay longer? Shall we entwine the earth for a second time,
like a twice pulled vine re-laying its tracks?
I came back through town. No one’s around: the dealer, the dancer, the healer, the chancer, the singer and actor, the building contractor, are no longer selling or buying, performing, supplying. We’re home alone with our small private banks.
When the money stopped moving, it sank.
But I’m thinking of another trade. Another give and take exchange
– not one weighed down by obligation –
but a homemade liberation of something we all possess that spreads a splendid …
Like a virus in a whispered chorus of tiny kindnesses
that pass through porous masks, glide though gloves,
to settle like petals on the wholly loved, or loved enough.
We don’t need more money. We don’t need more love. We just need to pour out
what’s there, to let it flow where it will, carefree, downhill.
I do have fear. Out there, in here but I’m clear that I need to steer away from him.
I’ll grieve my lost life but I need to swim in that flow again to retrieve my soul, to glow again.
I am the silent insurgent with mischief in mind. In each hand I hold little kindness dockets.
A gift to slip into two pockets. One for you and one for me.
I will leave this place. I don’t need hope, I need a hand, I need to flee. Be free.
That’s the decision by this detainee. That is what I will do for me.
And what of you? What can I do for you? I have no special powers, no vocation,
no rare qualification. But if you get my situation, if my scene is known to you,
if your liberty is due, I’ll find friends to help you too. That is what I will do for you.
That is all most of us can do:
do two things.
How about you?
Robbie Frazer has won many prizes and accolades in the last couple of years for his poetry. His latest collection, 192 Miles with Carla, was critically acclaimed.
“During the first lockdown, I was struck by the enormity of the divergence in fortunes between the planet and our species. I felt compelled to write about it but instead of putting my own ideas to paper, I wanted to hear the thoughts of others. I asked friends and family and two themes emerged: our fear and vulnerability; and the witnessing of a natural healing in nature. It was as if the planet was taking the breath that many of us were struggling to execute. The symmetry of the abuse of the feminine became increasingly clear as contrasting stories emerged – on the one hand, in the form of calls to charities like Refuge, and on the other, the stories of dolphins swimming in the canals of Venice.
“People were feeling the need for great change but it’s hard to think of what action we can take that will make a difference. As Phoebe says, a powerful tool we all have is kindness, both to others and to ourselves. If we all did just two things, we would turn the corner.”
Cassius has been making films for over 20 years. His awards run into double figures and feature honours from festivals across the globe. Today he not only creates socially important films, he also teaches the art and science of the craft.
He is a world expert in iPhone filmmaking, particularly useful during the Covid restrictions when large film crews and studio time were not possible.
Dani is an experienced performer and screen actor. She also works and teaches at the MET Film School at London’s Ealing Studios.
“Phoebe is brave and she is kind. Her gradual realisation that she is worthy of more, and deserving of a life on her own terms, was a pleasure to play. Not only does she do this with such openness and courage, but she wants to pass this on: “do two things”. For those who struggle and nearly lose themselves, yet still want to improve the lives of others, is a true strength that many of us don’t shout about. It is pure kindness.
“Learning and performing an 11 minute monologue was a challenge and a learning curve. Being a poem also made it extra interesting and I had to tweak decisions that would work around this medium. How to retain the melody of the poem and keep it intact yet bring raw authentic expression to it.
“There is a truth in Fabulous Phoebe that transcends day-to-day yet lives within it. I can only hope that I was truthful in my portrayal of her, as I like her very much!”
Please help people like Phoebe today.
But also, let’s stop the conveyor belt delivering the lives that people like Phoebe are experiencing. We can do this by helping our kids understand better how to have loving, respectful and healthy relationships. Take a quick look at what Olivia Colman, Patron of the charity Tender, has to say about their work in the JustGiving page below.
A couple of coins will make a difference. It adds up quickly – especially if you share the film across social media.
Every penny raised for Tender delivers more time educating our children about healthy relationships – preventing them from becoming victims or perpetrators of relationship abuse.
Just last year, 35,000 young people took part in Tender projects. The demand is huge and Tender are delivering more projects. It is an incredibly hopeful movement that is already changing attitudes and behaviours.
“Students have learned so much; the change in their attitudes and respect and understanding for victims. Students are often guilty of victim blaming and misogyny. A great change in attitude across the board.” – A teacher working with one of the schools programme.
Lend a hand, please.