So, that's a taste of week 2 and now week 3 has come and gone and I’m at the half way point of these initial experiments of the One Eyed Man Project. I write ‘initial’ there because, you’ll be unsurprised to learn, I’m already thinking of possible future applications of this work and ways in which I can carry forward the things I’ve learnt from the offerings so far.
This week the venue was the salubrious locale of the public foyer of the Civic Centre in Swansea. It’s a huge, cavernous space – high ceiling, pot plants, sofas and council paraphernalia everywhere. I was there after the place officially closed for the day and it was infused with the aura that all public buildings seem to have – don’t do that; don’t make noise; don’t miss behave; just ... don’t.
Having said that, the people I met there were all lovely if bemused by what on earth I was up to. The crack teams of internal communication personnel had worked their magic so no-one seemed to know that I was supposed to be there, leading to much judicious and subtle ignoring of the fact that a bloke was ranting and raving at people who had paid to come and see him in the foyer.
All joking aside, it was really fascinating to be in a bigger space and to be doing something that was obviously really out of the ordinary in that space. My main concern was that it would prevent people from feeling safe enough to participate fully and to share whatever they needed to but this didn’t seem to really be a problem. People were still as generous and forthcoming as they have been in the two previous venues – a fact which continues to convince me that I’m on the right track. But – and it’s a big but – it felt less safe. No other way of putting it. A smaller, more intimate and more contained space like the first two venues seems to lend itself more to enabling people to feel that they can be open about their irritations, foibles and joys than a large, open public space with council employees still moving through it.
As to the offerings themselves, I felt that I made some interesting jumps forwards especially in the last one of the week at 8.30 on Friday night. The audience were particularly open and vocal which encouraged me to let go of structure even more and focus on what was being said in the room. This emphasis that I have on structure is fascinating me and, obviously, I’ve been quite cagey about it on this blog – not wishing to give anything away.
In short, what I’m trying to do with each offering is take people from a position of being irritated with and potentially hating other people to a place where they can acknowledge that the only way to move forwards in life is to accept that any change has to come from within. Let me emphasise strongly though that I’m not ‘teaching’ or ‘preaching’ – rather I’m exploring my own personal experiences of recognising that all my pent up anger and frustration at other people’s behaviour is about me, stems from me and only I can deal with it – by changing myself. My interest with this project is to talk openly to people about the difficulties and frustrations that I find inherent in daily life when I have to rub up against other human beings. So, the ‘structure’ that I’ve been falling back on allows me to move through this process quite cleanly and rigidly. What I’d really like to be able to do is be more open to what people bring and to let their agendas lead the process more strongly.
Friday night’s show was a case in point – although all three offerings at the Civic Centre worked really well in this regard. The biggest frustration for me at the moment is that of engaging people with the project enough to actually get them through the door. I only did it three times in Swansea – as in Cardiff the previous week – out of a possible six. It’s a tricky area this – I’m funded by Arts Council Wales with a Creative Wales award in order to pursue an experimental process and they’re not particularly concerned with outcomes or product. But the only way I can see to discover the things I need in order to take the work forwards and arrive at a new methodology for myself is to actually do it as many times as possible. And that requires audiences.
The arts are under siege at the moment as we all tighten our belts to save us from the deficit. Arts are seen as being superfluous and self indulgent by many people. The other week I went to see a play directed by my good friend Simon Harris at the Arts Wing of the Swansea Grand Theatre. It was attended by about 30 people. Meanwhile, in the main theatre, 800 people went to see a medium. The laws of capitalism and commerce say that figures like that speak for themselves. Why should public money subsidise art forms that cannot survive in an open market place? I’m not going to go through all the various arguments here because they are being spouted ad infinitum elsewhere on the web. What I will say is that people are drawn to the known. It’s how commerce works. A known quantity – a brand – lures us to continue with the safe and comforting. Obviously what I’m offering is anything but: a performer no-one has heard of offering work that is totally unquantifiable in places that are not usually used for performances. No surprise at all that it’s proving tricky to get people through the door. What I can say definitely is that the people who have come along have had an enriching, enlivening and fascinating experience. But how to communicate that? And should I even try? I’m a great believer in synchronicity – whatever happens is what’s supposed to happen. So, if I don’t end up offering the show on a given night because no-one comes then that isn’t a sign that what I’m doing is wrong – it simply means I have to keep faith with the idea and turn up again the next night. And the next. And the next.
And that’s what I firmly intend to do. This week I return to Cardiff with six offerings taking place in the fabulous Big Little City exhibition at the Old Library in The Hayes. It’s a brilliant space full of rampant and exciting creativity and I hope people will take the opportunity to come along, not just to see me and take part in OEM but to check out the brilliant exhibition too.
Wednesday 8th – Friday 10th June – 7pm and 8.30pm nightly. Tickets free ( £3 suggested donation)
For more details – www.shermancymru.co.uk
Hope to see you soon. Really ...