Thursday 12 April 2012

Seeing the light

This is likely to be quite a long post as there’s plenty of news in the world of the One Eyed Man to catch up on. Soooo ... either give up now and simply come along to the next event – Tuesday 17th April, Tapestri Cafe, Swansea, 7.30pm, all tickets £3 on the door – or get yourself a coffee and a biscuit and strap in ...

Last month’s CHAT/SHOW was the best attended yet with over 20 people coming along to listen to me ramble on about conversation and then having some themselves. Now, 20 people may not seem like very many and you’d be right but in the context of this work it’s just about perfect. 20 people is a large enough group to allow everyone to feel safe and anonymous at the beginning of the evening but also small enough to allow them to feel that they can bond with, and get to know, the people with whom they’ve shared the experience. This work is not just about communication but about actually dropping barriers that we put up between ourselves and others. I know for myself that I tend to walk around the world wearing a protective forcefield that stops me from having to deal with the other people I come across in the world. And that’s fine ... but the negative impact of that is that over time I begin to fear and be suspicious of others for no other reason than that they are ‘other’ to me. And that can only lead to the world becoming a scarier and colder place.

The purpose of the One Eyed Man Project – I now begin to realise – is not just about me finding a place to vent my spleen in the hope of meeting like minded curmudgeons. It’s actually about re-igniting the possibility of genuine connection and communication between people – and providing a space where people can let their guard down just enough to recognise that they are not alone.

Now ... I need to reassure you that, despite not having lived there for over 20 years, I am still a Yorkshireman. I’m dour, suspicious, cynical and I wear a flat cap. My bullshit detector has been beeping madly as I typed that last couple of paragraphs. But the fact of the matter is that I have learned throughout my life that the old maxims are there because they are true. To quote Paul Weller – what you give is what you get. When all I put out into the world was gloomy, cynical bitterness at my lot in life, that was all I received in return. When I decided to try and put some good energy out there – just for a change, for the hell of it – what do you know? I got good energy back in return. So, I couch all this in a blanket of dour northerness but all I can say is that I tried the other way and it really didn’t work for me ...
Back to CHAT/SHOW – the piece continues to evolve. As with all this work, I don’t prepare, script or rehearse. The basic reason behind this is because I want to have a conversation with my audiences and you cannot plan a conversation. I have one more scheduled monthly CHAT/SHOW in Swansea – 17th at Tapestri cafe – and then I will begin to change some of the emphasis on what I do. I’ll still hold CHAT/SHOWs but in future I plan to give people much more time to talk to each other. Currently, it’s ten minute slots with topics about conversation – two people talking and one observing. In future I plan to give at least half an hour to groups of three and the topics will be questions about life, the world and our place in it. I know it will be a big leap for people but I feel sure that it will really enrich the experience.

But I’m constantly asking myself, where is this work is going? I asked this even more as, for the second time, I attended the spring meeting of IETM in Copenhagen at the end of March. I went to the meeting in Stockholm last year to mark my coming out as The One Eyed Man and this meeting really made me question what I’m up to a year on. For those of you who don’t know, IETM (Informal European Theatre Meeting) is a network of contemporary performance and theatre makers across Europe and beyond who meet twice a year to share ideas, thoughts and working practices. It’s basically a huge talking shop – which you’d think would be easy for someone who hosts an event called CHAT/SHOW but you’d be wrong. I spent most of my time there absolutely terrified of simply going up to someone I don’t know and starting a conversation. Physician, heal thyself ...

Anyway, the theme of this meeting was ‘Right?’ – in all permutations of that word – and I was quickly engaged by the stories and ideas that were being shared. I also very quickly got bloody annoyed. You see, I don’t want to tar all artists with the same brush (and God knows I’m in no position to be pious ...) but the tone of what I was hearing was pretty depressing. Faced with global collapse and austerity and the tightening of belts across the world whilst those with money try and convince those of us who don’t have it to have even less of it, the arts community is up against it. State funding for the arts – like all state funding – is under threat and being questioned like it hasn’t been for a generation. This is a time when artists need to be on the front foot, arguing for the value and usefulness of the arts to society. Not in an instrumentalist way – we’re not propagandists for the state - but rather as useful and vital members of society, not pompous arses who stand outside it. But what I found amongst my colleagues at IETM was a level of complacency and entitlement that shocked and angered me. I hasten to add this didn’t come from everyone but it was a general tone I picked up in many of the working groups and meetings. One person put it bluntly – “I’m an artist. I should be paid for doing nothing.”

Yes, fine. Perhaps I could suggest that you wake up and smell the coffee, my friend ...

I offered a suggestion in one of the working groups that set the cat amongst the pigeons and I offer it again here because I profoundly believe it.

Artists have forgotten that we are a service industry and that we exist to serve our community.

Okay, calm down, let me explain ...

Now, by ‘service’ I don’t mean that we are vassals of the state or that we should simply parrot propaganda. I mean that our role is clear – we provide entertainment, stimulation, controversy, reflection and challenge for our community and that we are reactive to it. Artists, it seems to me, have got into a peculiar habit of simply talking to and reacting to themselves. Art for art’s sake, if you will. Well, I don’t believe in that at all. The world is changing rapidly and art can’t simply sit on the sidelines, examining it’s navel and pompously declaring that it’s art so it can do what it likes. Art needs to get into the thick of things and get its hands dirty. I was incredibly inspired at IETM by hearing Nora Amin speak.

She runs her company in Cairo and described how they took their work onto the streets and into Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring revolution in Egypt. Their lives were often in danger as they began to improvise and play as theatre makers in a rapidly shifting and volatile street environment. Now, my society isn’t breaking down in the way that Nora’s did (although I often wonder if it bloody should!) but the fact remains that this is what artists should be doing – getting out of our cosy, usual environments and engaging with people directly.

There was much talk of ‘new models’ and ‘shifting paradigms’ at IETM and this seems to me to be crucial. I love theatre – always have, always will – but the old model is set in aspic. Write a play, cast it, rehearse it, advertise it, sell tickets, build a set, the audience come (or more often don’t) and sit in the dark while we tell them a story. But if you go back to how performance started – as inspired the One Eyed Man – there wasn’t this artificial gap between audience and performer and the work presented was totally present and reactive to the world. It’s this that inspires me and makes me feel that, in a small way, the work I’m doing is akin to that of Nora Amin.

So, where do I go from here?

It’s my intention to look further afield and to present the work in as many places as will have me. I’m no longer funded by Arts Council Wales and won’t be seeking funding to support the work in the near future so the aim is for it to at least support itself. I will seek residencies of a week at a time in various cities and venues around the country. There I intend to present CHAT/SHOW alongside it’s forerunner and sequel.

Last years’ work has now been renamed as RANDOM/ACT – a free flow conversation around anger, grumpiness, bitterness ... and random acts of kindness. This brings me to something I’ve long wanted to mention on this blog – last year I offered each audience the opportunity to pick what I would do with a day of my life ... and I promised to do it. So far, of 29 tasks, I have performed two. This is not because I don’t intend to keep my word but rather because I’ve spent most of the last year battling illness of one kind or another. But I intend to keep my word and fulfil my promises AND I intend to continue to offer audiences the chance to give me more.

So, RANDOM/ACT will take its place alongside CHAT/SHOW. And what of the third in this trilogy? I go back to my original intention which was to see what people really needed to talk about and then to talk about it – and I will offer a new variant called MIND/GAME. In this evening I will offer people an anonymous forum to air something private which they would really like to discuss – and then discuss it. So, this trilogy of variants will make up the work I take into the wider world outside Wales.

I’m dead excited by the possibilities of this work and was really inspired by seeing a show in Copenhagen called The Venus Labyrinth by a company called Cantabile 2. In this show, audience members went into rooms alone with a single performer and experienced something deeply personal and emotional. It was incredibly powerful and moving. The company, under artistic director Nullo Facchini, follow a methodology which they call ‘human specific performance’ as opposed to site specific. I love this notion as it chimes exactly with what I’m trying to do with The One Eyed Man. Performance tailored specifically to the human beings present in the room.

There you go ... lots of thinking, planning, cogitating and all of it leads back to me standing in front of rooms of people with no idea what to say but the profound and passionate desire to be of service as an artist.

Thanks for reading this and do leave me any thoughts or comments either here or on Facebook: The One Eyed Man or Twitter: @manoneeye

Hopefully see you - specifically - soon.

PS - Brene Brown who has inspired so much of the work I do in The One Eyed Man gave another extraordinary TED talk last month. If you haven't caught up with her work yet, you must. Watch this and then go and watch all her other stuff. She's so incisive on vulnerability and shame and I absolutely adore her. Check it out.

Thursday 23 February 2012

It’s genuinely good to talk ...

So, I’ve now done two of the new incarnation of the One Eyed Man, CHAT/SHOW, in the foyer space at Volcano. It’s a terrific space to do it in – versatile in just the right way. A few sofas, some carefully placed lamps and it feels like a front room or bar environment which is just what this kind of work needs.

The people who have attended have been a mixture of old faces from last year and newbies and that has meant that there is a degree of explanation involved in what I’m doing – that said, the postcards created by the fabulous Claudine Conway, lay out in pretty explicit detail what the evening will be about and so people have been more inclined to go for what I’m asking them to do than I was expecting.

And what is that? Well – talk. Conversation, to be precise. The title of the work is, in some ways, wrong since conversation is, arguably, something more than mere chat. Conversation – as I talk about in the show itself – comes from the Latin word ‘conversare’ which literally translates means ‘to turn around’ – and that’s what conversation really achieves.

So, I’ve been spending about half the evening – roughly 45 minutes – doing what I did last year. Talking in an entirely off-the-cuff and unprepared way about my personal feelings, learnings and experiences of conversation in my life – and, as an adjunct, asking people to tell me theirs.

Since the idea began to evolve from last year’s experiments that what people really responded to was the opportunity to be vulnerable and present in conversation with people they don’t know very well, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and research and thinking about conversation. Principle texts so far include: The Art of Conversation by Catherine Blyth – a fantastic and rich compendium of thoughts, ideas and maxims of how conversation works and brings benefits; Conversation by Theodore Zeldin – these are transcripts of talks the author gave on Radio 4 which were so popular that he ended up publishing them – they are absolutely wonderful and inspiring about the art of conversation and have also provided me with a rich source of conversational gambits which I give to my guests (I can’t really call them an audience since it’s not really a show ...); and currently – Watching the English by Kate Fox – a hilarious and true account of behaviour that marks out English people – and in particular the ways we converse with each other. It’s almost impossible for me now to make small talk about the weather without thinking about this book and it’s revelations about why we do what we do. Also, her explanation of the way that we have to greet each other in a shambolic and vaguely embarrassed way is pure genius. I heartily recommend all three.

So, after 45 minutes of my ramblings and discussions about conversation – why it works, examples of great conversations, what are the rules? Etc – I then turn the evening over to the guests and offer them the chance to actually have conversations. And I’m delighted to say that people have been really engaging and enjoying the process of talking for it’s own sake.
At this stage, I’m not sure where this is taking me or how it may evolve over time but I still feel strongly that I’m on to something profound.

Think back over the last few days of your own life. Honestly, how many conversations have you had? Not just chats about the weather or Adele being interrupted on the Brits or the awful things happening in the world – but a conversation that actually made you turn around. A meeting of minds that lead to you emerging from the encounter a different person to the one who went in. It’s rare, isn’t it? For me too.

Now, arguably, it should be rare and that if every interaction we had on a daily basis had the same effect then we’d be bouncing all over the place. But it shouldn’t be so rare that we never get any opportunities to look someone in the eye and hear their truth and have them hear ours.

It’s fundamental to what makes us human and keeps us nurturing compassion for one another. For me, the person who drives like an arsehole (I know, I know ...), doesn’t indicate or wear a seatbelt, is someone I would cheerfully throw to a pack of hungry dogs. Because they are a faceless non-entity. But put me in a room with that person, face to face, to genuinely talk about driving and social responsibility and stress and how we might make things better – and we might just arrive at a way of living that is better for both of us and better for everyone else in the world.

I know, call me an old idealist but I genuinely think that in this totally commonplace and non-revolutionary act of conversation lies the key to a successful future for us all as a race.

So, I’ll be there at 229 High Street Swansea every month – Tuesday 20th March and Tuesday 17th April coming up – and I hope you’ll think about coming along.

Because it genuinely is good to talk.

Thursday 26 January 2012


There you go. That wasn’t so hard, was it?

I always say that to myself after every One Eyed Man offering because the build up to it in my head is so enormous and the level of adrenalin I pump so huge that you’d think I was bungee jumping over Niagra Falls rather than just standing up in front of people who’ve paid to come and see me and talking for an hour or so.

The difference is, of course, that I don’t script or preplan what I’m going to say – I don’t rehearse – I just get up there and talk about the topic that intrigues me at the moment and hope for the best and that people will quickly drop their fears and inhibitions and join me in a conversation.

For that is what CHAT/SHOW is all about. And the first one went really well. A small but perfectly formed audience of friends and newbies came along to Volcano’s fantastic space at 229 High Street Swansea on a crappy rainy Tuesday night. We had tea and coffee and nachos and we talked ... about talk.

Every show is also a work in progress and is unrepeatable since it becomes about that group of people on that particular evening. So, the things I learnt on 24th January, in no particular order, that are unlikely to ever be talked about again in quite the same way are:

Old women in graveyards can often mistake you for a ghost but still like having a chat with you.

Chops are lovely. Especially when they’re minty.

Young people live their entire lives online. They chat online, flirt online, wank online, bitch online and dump people online before they’ve even met them. This at least gives me hope that the current population explosion might soon be on the wane since, frankly, how the hell are these people ever in a position to share bodily fluids?! They’re never in the same room!

Skype can be great but you need to concentrate – some people have to close their eyes even when on a video call. And some people realise that you can take a laptop into the toilet with you when you have wifi ...

‘Electronic toys’ has several different meanings, not all of them family friendly ...

There is risk involved in interacting with other human beings face to face but the pleasures of doing so are immeasurable.

‘The Lean’ is a universally understood part of life.

Not everyone is as enamoured at the thought of conversation with total strangers as I am ...

Once I’d rambled long enough I took the evening to the next level and invited everyone to take part in a conversation.


Sorry ...

It always surprises me how afraid we all are of each other. Not because I’m not, I hasten to add – but I thought it was just me. But no. Suggesting to a room full of strangers that they might like to converse with each other, you can literally feel the tension in the room ramp up a few notches.

But I’m delighted to report that everyone really seemed to enjoy themselves. I provided the conversational gambits thus removing the dreaded fear of ‘what are we going to talk about?’ – and conversation flowed.

Then, I ended the evening by asking people for feedback and, as always seems to happen with this work, people really liked it even though they didn’t know what to expect and would find it hard to describe it to other people. One young guy said he thought it was like “a chat room ... but for real.”

So, onwards and upwards. I will be doing the next CHAT/SHOW at the same venue, 229 High Street Swansea on Wednesday 15th February at 7.30pm. (I had thought about doing it on the 14th but then my only audience would be sad, lonely people who couldn’t get a date ... hang on, it could be like a kind of a speed dating thing!)

Keep talking to each other. It’s the only thing that gives us hope.


Tuesday 10 January 2012

The One Eyed Man returns with CHAT/SHOW!

Hello there and happy 2012,

Finally, I’m back and ready to continue the One Eyed Man experiments. I’m picking up where I left off with a brand new show which will run monthly at Volcano Theatre Company’s fantastic new space in Swansea at 229 High Street. Here’s the blurb and I’ll explain more below:

The One Eyed Man & Volcano Theatre Company



You’ve got 500 friends on Facebook ...

You’ve got 700 followers on Twitter ...

But when was the last time you actually had a conversation?

CHAT/SHOW is a unique experience in performance and participation. Suggest a topic, study the basic principles then practice the skills of real conversation.

The art of conversation is dead.

Discuss ...

Venue: Volcano @229 High Street, Swansea

Dates: 24th January; 15th February; 20th March; 17th April

Event begins at 7.30pm. Duration: 90mins.

All tickets: £3 on the door.

Further info:


Facebook: The One Eyed Man Project

Twitter: @manoneeye; @Volcano229

Intrigued? I hope so.

So, what exactly is CHAT/SHOW? Well, for those of you that didn’t see a One Eyed Man show last year (and for those of you that did and didn’t understand what the hell I was up to ...), CHAT/SHOW is the next stage in an ongoing series of performance experiments that I am conducting in front of and with audiences. You see, after years of working as a professional, traditional actor; years of working as a writer for stage and TV; and, latterly, years of working for and with Volcano making work that genuinely engages, challenges, scares and amazes - I began to wonder why it was that I – and many other people – were falling out of love with theatre. My realisation was that this most immediate of mediums – the performers are in the room with you, anything could happen – had lost it’s immediacy. We all know the routine – get your ticket, grab a drink, go to the loo, find your seat, the curtain rises, the actors go through the motions, we clap, they bow and everybody goes home.

*Okay that might be doing it something of a disservice but you get the basic idea ... *

There are many new and engaging forms of theatre that play on the immediacy of the form. Immersive, interactive experiences that take us on a journey – sometimes literally – that walk us through a space, or put us through an endurance test. And in a world where we spend more and more time looking at screens, these experiences remind us that there is something primal in making a genuine and real connection with a performer. I believe this is why stand-up comedy has become the new rock and roll with stars like Michael McIntyre and Dara O’Brain (whatever you may think of them and their ilk) selling out arena’s around the country. The audience feels it is taking part in something live and unique.

But, for me, something was still missing. Genuine immediacy. Stand-up and interactive theatre are still working from the same basic premise – write a show, rehearse a show, perform a show. I wondered what would happen if you took the first two of those away and simply ... did a show.

So, I did. In 6 different non-performance venues in Swansea and Cardiff last year, I performed 29 totally unscripted and unplanned ‘shows’ to audiences who varied in size from 30+ to 1. And I learnt the most wonderful thing.

It worked.

Not only did it work but there was a genuine and real sense of connection: between myself and the audience and (and this is the nub of CHAT/SHOW) between the audience members themselves. People fed back to me that they genuinely loved a chance to meet, engage and converse with total strangers about truly deep and meaningful topics. My job was to create a space safe enough for people to meet minds without fear of ridicule or censure. And that’s what I did.

*Full disclosure – not everyone liked it. Some people felt intimidated by being talked to rather than at, or felt a pressure to engage or talk when they simply didn’t want to. Some people asked me what on earth I thought I was doing and whether I was trying to give ‘group therapy’. Somebody wondered what the hell Arts Council Wales were funding me for. I’m sure they wondered the same thing ... *

People conversed. Spurred on by my ramblings on my deep, abiding fear that hate all of mankind – people who don’t indicate, students, people who don’t pick up after their dog, students, people who talk on their phone in the quiet carriage, students who wear flip-flops in December etc – my audiences engaged with me and each other on a level that we so seldom communicate with strangers. We shared thoughts, ideas, fears and joys. The simple act of conversation seemed to enliven people’s day and feed something absolutely necessary in us all.

So, the next logical stage in the work is to make conversation the central point of an evening.

So, I did.

CHAT/SHOW will explore conversation – how we do it, why we do it, what do we talk about. Is it a skill to be learnt or something we can all instinctively do? An attempt to create for the 21st century the French salons of the 18th. We will come together, examine the fundamental’s of good conversation, share stories of conversations past – both good and bad, everyone love’s a horror story – and then ... we’ll have one.

*Don’t worry – if you don’t want to participate, you don’t have to. But I feel sure that – should you come to the show – after an hour or so, you’ll be raring to get stuck in. But I’m not giving your money back if you don’t ... *

Like the initial experiments, there will be nothing pre-planned, written or rehearsed. The evening will revolve around what you and I bring to it, the day we’ve just lived through and the things we want to talk about. The difference is that talk is what it’s about.

A regular, monthly event at 229 where talk is back on the menu. I think it’ll be great and I really hope you fancy coming along.


Tuesday 21 June 2011

A load of hot air ... and balls ...

Back to Swansea for the final time in this first run of experiments and to the Junction Cafe in Blackpill. Many thanks to Hannah and all her staff – Bev, Michelle and Sofja – for being so incredibly warm and welcoming. The venue itself proved to be quite a tricky one with the bizarrest acoustic I’ve ever come across in such a small space. Sound simply didn’t carry at all which made for some interesting times as I had to repeat a lot of what people said so other people could hear it too. Nevertheless some really exciting and lovely experiments took place, culminating in my largest audience to date last Friday, the 17th.

There has been quite a bit of negative reaction to the piece this week – a letter of complaint from a disgruntled audience member and some sense of people feeling aggrieved and angry with me for what I’m doing. Now, I’m the first to admit that this may be because I’m coming towards the end of the six weeks and am feeling tired and oversensitive. And I’ll also say that part of me is secretly (not that secretly now!) delighted since I’ve always believed that if you’re not pissing people off then you’re doing something wrong. But it’s really important to look at people’s concerns about the work and address myself to them.

I think an easy mistake to make about these experiments is to suggest that somehow I’m indulging in a form of ‘group therapy’ by setting up a forum which encourages people to speak and share openly about their lives, foibles and concerns. The implication somehow being that I’m not qualified to do such work and that it’s therefore dangerous to set up such a space. I have to say, however, that I absolutely do not believe that’s what I’m doing. If anything I’m attempting to create a space where people can share anything they want to and holding it in such a way that certainty of any kind is questioned and examined. I’m not seeking to give anyone answers to life’s problems – shit, I can’t do that for myself so I can hardly do it for anyone else! Nor am I seeking to preach or teach. Rather I’m looking to find common ground between myself and other people and allowing them to do the same. Sometimes it works, sometimes it fails and I can’t speak for how people will arrive at the experiments, what is happening in their lives or what they seek to get from it. If that’s ‘dangerous’ then so be it. I firmly and passionately believe that communication and interaction is the only way we are ever going to reconnect with each other and develop more empathy and understanding for other people. The one thing I seek to do is to suggest that we are not alone in our fears and insecurities. I do this by attempting to share my own in as unguarded and open a way as possible. And sometimes that means that I’m a hypocrite – as I believe we all are. And sometimes that means I swear or say something that people might find offensive. If so, I would hope that the space I have set up in the experiments is open enough that they might feel able to challenge me about what I have said there and then. I have no intention of attacking anyone or indulging in one-upmanship as is common amongst stand-up comics. On the contrary, if I am accused of hypocrisy or bigotry or unacceptable language, then I will be the first to acknowledge it. Because these experiments are about acknowledging weakness and failure as being healthy and part of normal life. Not some ludicrous notion of perfection and certainty which bears no relationship to reality.

So, with the caveat that all of that may have come from my being a tad oversensitive, I feel content that the experiments are moving forwards in an interesting, exciting and challenging way. I’m looking forward to the final tranche this week at the Vaults in Cardiff Bay. And then I’m looking forward to having a couple of weeks off before I start to think about what I have learned and how I might want to continue this work in the future. Because the one thing I can say with any degree of certainty right now is that I absolutely do want the work to continue. I really believe that I’m onto something good and useful and unique here. The question is how to apply it and continue it onwards.

Obviously, the first thing I need to address myself to in the autumn is my commitment to fulfil the wishes of my audiences in what I will henceforth refer to as the ‘Days of my Life’ project. I need to go back and update the list and I’ll do that once the experiments are complete. But, I have begun by taking part in the first one – the Midsummer Skinny Dip at Rhossilli Bay on Gower took place this past Sunday 20th and I was there alongside the lovely lady (whose name I sadly don’t know) who suggested I do it.

And it was fantastic! 400 people all stripping off and running screaming into the cold sea was quite something to be part of. It was life affirming and wonderful in all the best ways. Interestingly, I wasn’t in the slightest self conscious about being naked since everyone else was too. Below are a couple of Youtube docs about it – the first one is from the National Trust and you can see me being interviewed at about 3.15. The second one (avert your eyes, mother!) was taken by someone whose partner was in the next row to me – you can just about make out my flabby arse as I drop my kecks and leg it for the sea to the left of frame. Enjoy or something ...

If you’d like to donate something to the charity supported by the skinny dip then head to their website – - or donate direct to Marie Curie -

So, the next phase of the project has already begun and I will inevitably want to tell people about all the experiences I have fulfilling my promise to give away days of my life. Looking forward to the final few offerings in Cardiff and then a rest and then ... who knows? Nothing about life is certain after all.



Monday 20 June 2011

Final Cardiff venue just confirmed!

The Vaults at the Provincial - 113-116 Bute Street, Cardiff Bay.

Tickets available on the door £3

Weds 22nd to Fri 24th - 7pm & 8.30pm nightly.

Come one, come all - last chance to catch the experiments in their earliest stages. What do you want to talk about? What's on your mind? What do you need to get off your chest?

Everything's allowed!

Wednesday 15 June 2011

Big times in the little city

No video as yet - apologies but I'm back writing for Doctors during the day so haven't had chance to do some editing. Will get another video up asap. Meanwhile ...

So, week four and back to Cardiff and this time in the glorious surroundings of the Big Little City exhibition organised, curated and beaten into shape by Dan Green. If you haven’t been to check it out yet, then you really must. It’s an explosion of creativity and joy about Cardiff – its history, its present and its future. I could wander around it for hours and it was all I could do to lure my audiences back into a sitting position to allow me to rant at them ...

As to the experiments themselves, several things came up that were really interesting. Firstly, in a different space again with no formal seating arrangements, people inevitably ended up sitting in a circle with me standing or sitting amongst them. In principle this is all fine and dandy but in practice what it leads to is a perfectly understandable feeling of vulnerability and disquiet. Sitting in a circle has, in our era, come to mean ‘sharing’ and usually not voluntary sharing. It’s a pretty naked place to be – looking directly at your fellow humans and being looked at directly yourself. The possibilities of openness that the One Eyed Man format offers are wonderful but I need to recognise how scary they can be. When fellow performers and creatives attend the show, it is wonderful that they feel so able to be open and share their stories, thoughts and ideas. But the real measure of success is when people who would never usually dream of being open and sharing feel safe enough to do so. So, places such as The Plan where people sit at their own tables whilst also participating are perhaps more useful to the experiments. Which is great to bear in mind as I play my final Swansea dates this week at The Junction Cafe.

Secondly, it’s really important to stay focussed on the task in hand. What I mean by this is that when I started at the Old Library on Wednesday night I hadn’t done it for four full days. I was hyped, excited, full of bile, rant and rage and ready to be unleashed. What this meant was that the first night was the closest I have come to doing something akin to stand-up comedy in the four weeks that I’ve been conducting these experiments. I haven’t watched the tapes back yet but, from the inside, I felt like Michael McIntyre (which is definitely not a good feeling to have!). I walked up and down, I ranted and raved, shouted and laughed and the audiences responded in kind. But – and this is a big BUT – I don’t want to be a stand-up comedian and these experiments are not – contrary to any false impressions – an attempt for me to enter stand-up by the back door without actually having to hone my craft and write material. The aim is to use my skills as a performer to provide a totally free, open and non-judgemental space for people to come together and talk about the things the need to say. The things they can’t say in any other forum or place in society. And, in my opinion which has been supported by experience in these last few weeks, this space needs to be with strangers to us. There’s no possible way we can develop genuine openness and empathy for our fellow man if we don’t talk to our fellow man, eye to eye and face to face. So, my need to entertain and by funny is fine but it’s beside the point of what I’m trying to achieve.

Which brings me to the third point. Lots of people have been enormously kind in giving me their feedback and thoughts on the experiments so far – and if there is one clear message it is that people would like there to be more space and time to let things bubble up naturally. Thus far, much as I have talked about it till I’m blue in the face and seriously said to Gareth as we prepared for each evening’s experiments – “Tonight I really want to let things sit and just see what bubbles up ...” I’ve never done it. Not once. I always pay lip service to it and then bottle out and start speaking and driving again.

Now this is not to say that I shouldn’t be driving at all but my dream has always been that the actual subject matter and content of the discussions should come from the audience, unaffected by any agenda of mine. So, what is holding me back?

There are, I think, two factors. The first is the one I use to excuse the second which I really don’t want to acknowledge or face. I’m an actor and a performer. I always have been ever since I was a young boy. I’ve spent a fair proportion of my life in front of audiences. And so it is hard wired into me that I am duty bound to deliver a ‘performance’ and what I mean by that is that my energy should go out to people to give them a good experience – an enriching experience – however you want to define that. The idea that I can simply be present and hold the space and be open to whatever people need to say – even if it takes five or ten minutes of silence before that arrives – is anathema to me. It feels wrong somehow. Like I’m not holding up my end of the bargain. But, I think this is simply a smokescreen for what’s really going on.

I’m terrified.

Absolutely shitting myself that someone will stand up, look me right in the eye and say this:

“Who the fuck do you think you are?”

Cause it’s a huge thing I’m doing. And I don’t by any means think that I’m a ‘huge’ person. But I’ve always believed in my bones that working in the arts is a ‘service’ industry. We provide a service to people – and where’s the service in simply holding space for people to fill with the things they need to talk about?

Now, I think the answer to that is self-evident and if you don’t then I suspect that the One Eyed Man is not for you. But I need to not be afraid of doing what I really feel in my bones this work is about. I need to know that, if someone does feel the need to ask me that question, that the group who have come to that evening’s experiment might be inclined to self-police. I don’t think I’m anybody. I’m a performer offering a service. That’s all.

There’s a reason I called this project the One Eyed Man – In the Kingdom of the blind, the One Eyed Man is King. I take that to mean that a tiny little bit more sight allows perspective. Not that I’m King. So, all I’m doing is offering a space for that perspective to flourish. And I hope that people understand that’s what’s being offered.

Long winded blog post today –

So, final Swansea dates this week at the Junction Cafe, Blackpill. Great location, great coffee – 7pm & 8.30pm nightly Weds –Fri. Tickets always available on the door or via

Next week’s venue in Cardiff is coming together and I’ll be shouting it from the rooftops once it’s confirmed.

In the meantime, keep well, watch out for the effects of the lunar eclipse and remember ...

What do you want to talk about?

P.S - My nemesis - gggrrrrrrr ....