Back again after a long week away from home on a variety of courses and meetings with lots of people. I spend most of my day and life working alone in my office as I am doing now - typing away - so the experience of being in front of lots of new people and being seen by them is an odd one and actually takes a huge amount of energy. That combined with travel and trying to get back into my running and I'm bloody knackered!
Anyway, what have I been doing and how does it all apply to the One Eyed Man?
First up last week was a group facilitation course in London run by ICA.
I don't really think that I'm going to necessarily be applying all the skills that I learnt on this two day course directly with audiences but, for me, part of the reason for doing OEM in the first place is to relate to audiences differently. Not to see the people who have come to see the show as either enemies or friends but rather as fellow human beings. As an actor and performer for the vast majority of my life I've spent a huge amount of time in front of audiences and I've found that my attitudes towards them have got a bit stale. Either it's the 'oh, there's not a lot of them, that's disappointing' - or it's the 'oh no, a schools audience, time to become a crowd controller' - or 'they don't seem to be having a very good time' etc etc. You get the picture. The relationship between performer and audience is a subtle and fascinating one but I'm so bored of the gladiatorial notion of 'us' versus 'them'. Over the past few years working with Volcano I've really started to have conversations with audiences in a way that I never imagined possible.
So, the group facilitation course offered me new possibilities of working with audiences dealing with and drawing out different subjects. I have a hunch that I will pursue until I end up proven wrong that audiences themselves can decide the subject up for discussion during an offering of the OEM. The tutors on the course threw up their hands in horror at this and I may well be on a hiding to nothing but I'd definitely like to see if it's possible. What do we - as a collective who have come together on this one unique occasion - and who have been alive today in the world - want and need to talk about? What needs to be said?
The other thing that really hit home on the course is how many people are about to be made redundant. The course was made up of a lot of people who all work for a particular publicly funded charity - and they were all there because come the end of this financial year they're out on their ear. That's only one of the reasons why I'll be going along to the March for the Alternative in London this Saturday ...
After the course, I had a couple of days off in London and caught up with my good friend, Natalie Haynes, a very gifted and funny stand-up who I got to know whilst prepping Hitting Funny several years ago. She offered me some great advice and thoughts on what I'm trying to do.
And then I attended a two day workshop on Public Speaking lead by John Dawson.
I know what you're thinking ... why the hell would he need public speaking lessons? He's an actor, a performer, he's experienced, he's been on stage thousands of times, he went to RADA, for God's sake ...
Yeah, all that's true - but every time I went on stage ... I was being someone else. Even if it was an exaggerated version of me. I have never stood in front of a room full of people and simply been myself. In fact, I'm sure if you ask most actors, they will say their greatest fear is public speaking. Why do you think all award acceptance speeches are so shit?
So, last Saturday I took my place with eight other people and we stood up in front of each other in small room and shook like Tasmanian Devils and panicked and OD'd on adrenalin. Much of what happened I can't share with you because the room remains confidential and rightly so. But, my God, the bravery that people showed in getting up there and being seen. And, at bottom, the issues for everyone are the same - lack of self worth, fear of failure and ridicule. Everyone in that room shared that and shared support as we looked out at the faces of people who felt just like us. Here's the room empty -
Looks a piece of cake, right? Only 9 chairs and John, the teacher? Well, I can't remember feeling so scared as standing up in that room.
But the most amazing thing was the progress that everyone made, bar none. By the end of the weekend there were budding stand-up comics in that room, and people who had seemed like they wanted to disappear a day or so earlier took their place with pride and dignity.
It was the most amazing course and the lessons I learned from it will feed directly into my work in OEM. Here's a short clip of John Dawson talking about his work -
I heartily recommend his courses to anyone who would like to feel more comfortable speaking in front of people.
So, with all of these new lessons and adventures in mind I headed to Caernarfon in North Wales for the third Emergence event curated by my partner Fern Smith. Yet again it was a brilliant day with some incredible speakers and left me with a real passion to want to talk to people about what's happening to our world. After all, look around you - Japan, Libya, global financial catastrophe, cuts and more cuts, Yemen, Israel - it can so easily seem as if we're all doomed. And I believe we have to start talking about it and recognising - to borrow from a total shithead - that we're all in it together.
There you go. Lots of great food for thought. Now, here comes the advert part -
If you've read this and would be interested in seeing a show and communicating more with me then please don't hesitate - leave me a comment here or on the Facebook group - The One Eyed Man Project; or on Twitter @manoneeye
Swansea dates are now on sale -
18 - 20 May - Upstairs at Noah's Yard, Uplands
1 - 3 June - Foyer of Civic Centre, Oystermouth Road
15 - 17 June - Junction Cafe, Blackpill, Oystermouth Road
Available from the Taliesin box office - http://www.taliesinartscentre.co.uk/performances.php?id=309
Cardiff venues are still being finalised but the show is now up on the Sherman website - http://www.shermancymru.co.uk/performance/drama/oneeyedman/
So, join up, let me know your thoughts, what you'd like to see, what you'd like to talk about, if you think I'm out of my mind ...
And I look forward to standing up in front of you and being seen.