Saturday, 30 April 2011

A Smorgasbord of Delights

Since last I blogged it’s been something of a rollercoaster ride for me – incredible highs and devastating lows. I’ve always sort of preferred life to be like that but I have to say that this last couple of weeks has been pretty white-knuckly, even for me.
To begin with the highs – first off, I attended the IETM spring plenary conference in Stockholm from 14th to April. IETM (Informal European Theatre Meeting) is an organisation that has been going for over 30 years and pretty much does what it says on the tin. It brings together theatre makers and producers from all over Europe to foster collaborations, co-productions and sharing of ideas. This was not only my first time of attending but also in some senses my ‘coming out’ as a solo artist. I’ve never been particularly good at networking and ‘selling myself’ so I was especially nervous. I arrived the night before conference was due to start and began my stay with a run around one of Stockholm’s many islands – always a great way to orient yourself and arrive somewhere.
Then I was into the maelstrom. And ... I loved it. It was very tiring and a bit full on – not being usually the most excessively of sociable people I probably met more people in those four days than I normally do in six months. The great thing for me was that each conversation was not about ‘Sell! Sell! Sell’ but simply about conversation and connection. The theory being that true collaboration and sharing comes out of genuinely open conversation and not hard sell.

Amongst the highlights were one of the most bonkers pieces of theatre I’ve seen in a long time by a company called Institutet – Comte D’Amour. Inspired by the horrific Josef Fritzl case, this was four blokes in their pants and nappies going absolute shitstorm bonkers for three hours – with cover versions of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ and ‘Wicked Game’ thrown in for good measure. It was mostly over-the-top, pretentious and silly shite but there was a forty minute section in the middle of it where one of the cast in particular was basically fucking himself up – physically, emotionally, in every possible – which was bordering on genius. The trailer below does it no justice whatsoever ...

There were work groups and seminars and talking/talking/talking. The personal highlight for me was that I’d applied to present the One Eyed Man Project in a Brainstorm session and had been successfully chosen. 20 minutes to share the idea and get people’s feedback on it. I decided to treat the presentation exactly like a show and not prepare for it in any way. After all, I have been thinking and talking about the project now for well over 18 months. If I can’t talk about it off the cuff for 20 minutes then the prospect of me performing in like fashion for 75 minutes twice a night is a slim one. It went really well. My questions were related to presentational style, some content (which at this stage I’ll keep from you), and mainly how to interact with audiences before, during and after the presentations. I think the time is ripe to look again at how we share performance work with audiences and how we – performers and audiences – interact throughout the process. For example, is it possible for people to book tickets for a show without knowing where the venue is until the day? Rather like an illegal rave? Leave your mobile number and we’ll send you a text an hour before the show. Similarly, is it possible for a show to be announced on the day – for example if a huge global or national event makes it ripe for a show that day – and people to still want to come? My ultimate dream is to have a large enough network of people who have seen the shows in the past and engaged with the community aspects of being an audience that they could even ask me to do a show at the drop of a hat! Is all this simply pipe dreams? At this stage probably yes – but in the future, who knows? Anyway, the brainstorm was great, I met lots of people who loved the ideas behind what I’m up to and were really encouraging about it.

So, after lots of drinking and talking, and a bit of sightseeing, I left Stockholm on Sunday 17th to fly home and begin ‘rehearsals’. The only fly in the ointment was that my legs and feet had started to really ache whilst I was in Sweden. I put it down to having bought a new pair of boots which I’d worn every day and too much standing around drinking and talking ...
How wrong could I be ...
The plan was to meet up with my collaborator on the project, Gareth Clark, down in West Wales for an initial week of discussions and sharing before getting into ‘rehearsals proper the following week.
Best laid plans ...
Below is the first of hopefully many mini docu-drama-mentaries on the process. Hope you enjoy it.
I bloody didn’t ...


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