Blog

2016 3/4

I’m listening to a Spotify advert that’s telling me the government is helping people become homeowners. And now there’s another advert about a web platform that will make me stand-out online. Something about chicken fillets – all the ways you can cook a chicken fillet…oh good, Lene Lovich is playing. While I’m not paying any cash to listen to this record, I am giving over some brain space in the hopes that I’ll divert my cash to bricks and mortar, HTML code and fowl later on, when I’m good for it. Fair trade, right?

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No, I haven’t been updating this blog much lately, because I’ve been moving to London and getting settled there, and concentrating on making work for SPILL Festival in Ipswich instead. Come: I’ll be showing LOAD on Saturday 29th October, 5pm at Ipswich Town Hall. What’s it about? Broadly speaking, inappropriate pleasure and self-exploitation. More fun than it sounds but not exactly light-relief either.

Sat here in my kitchen in Clapton, listening to Dan Deacon and segments about pregnancy tests, writing about my work, what strikes me is how most of the performances I’ve done over the past 12 – 18 months have emerged from similar source material but been completely different in each and every iteration. Trying on and discarding coats in a charity shop. The artistic process generates so much waste – in the rehearsal room and on the road, material and ideas discarded, chopping away at an invisible, endlessly replenishable marble in search of the right form. And titles! Titles! I hate titles. I squirm when I think of I Was A Teenage Volcano and between you and me, I’m not too hot on Load as a title either. But there they are, on the web site, in the search results, maybe even in the collective unconscious, enduring evidence of your questionable aesthetic decisions.

I’m exaggerating of course. It’s just a process of maturing. I’m happy with where the work is right now. But fuck me… those titles.

In other news, I had a great time in Hastings with Curious, courtesy of LADA and their DIY workshops. We questioned boundaries, privacy and permission in someone’s private bedroom, up at Hastings castle and on the beach with some very smart, passionate and provocative collaborators.

OK, while this has been fun, I’m bored of writing now – I’ve done more work than I should be doing on a Sunday already. Have a good one.

2016 1/4

Where are you at as an artist currently?

I’m thinking about how I can incorporate more live sound and movement into my performance, and the role / reliability of autobiography in my work. Having spent three years studying English & Creative Writing, I’m very comfortable using the written and spoken word but feel these practices will open more windows, artistically speaking.

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Recently I worked with Eirini Kartsaki who introduced me to some completely new approaches to my material that pushed me out of my comfort zone (and paid off with some great audience feedback from my performance at Camden People’s Theatre) and this weekend I attended a workshop on inter-disciplinary performance called ‘Babble’ hosted at Future Everything, which introduced me to the possibility of using live percussion on found objects using contact mics and loop pedals. As a frustrated drummer, nothing would make me happier.

What are you working on?

(I Was A) Teenage Volcano continues to evolve. After showings at Emergency at Z-arts, Manchester in 2015 and Sprint Festival at Camden People’s Theatre, London in March 2016, I’m looking to incorporate the aforementioned live sound and movement, embedding it more in the text material, which will also be put through experimental approaches. Robert Brown and I are also developing a short performance film as part of my Terminal Ferocity project. We’ll be working on this over the next few months before he jets off on his travels. For now, here’s a sample:

There’s also some spots of writing here and there, which I’ll be sharing when the time is write (ha!)

Anything else worth mentioning?

Yes, I’ve had a lot of fun turning a staircase into a volcano and creating a four hour durational, interactive sound performance for families at Haphazard at Z-arts in February, and performing to a crowd of three hundred or so people in an empty swimming pool wearing nothing but a silver paper crown, a pillow and my boxer shorts, acting the fool at Short & Sweet.

Photo (l – r): Gareth Cutter at Short & Sweet, image by Jody Hartley; I Am A Volcano at Haphazard, Z-arts, image by Tamsin Drury

What’s getting you excited right now?

1. The music of Anna Meredith.

2. Attending Buzzcut festival.

3. The Cognitive Liberation Front.

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Photo: Cognitive Liberation Front at Short & Sweet, image by Jody Hartley

Celluloid Stripes

Ideas come and they hang around for a bit, so I work on them, and then I get bored and do something else for a bit. And then I get bored of that and come up with another idea, which hangs around for a bit and then I do that for a bit instead. Then I get bored of that idea, and come back to the original idea (the one I had two ideas ago), which is still hanging around and do that for a bit again. In this way I maintain a constant sense of being very busy whilst making the smallest of incremental advances in the direction I want to go, which also happens to be three different directions at once.

Welcome to my creative process. Please wipe your feet and take off your shoes before entering, and make sure they’re clearly labelled too as I may just put them on by mistake (or design, if they’re good shoes) and walk out with them.

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Oh! Who’s this then? Why, it’s me in a tiger suit and my film-making friend, Robert Brown. It’s been nearly a year since I last slipped into my figure-hugging, striped spandex body-stocking; I honestly thought I’d worn it out. The idea, that is.

But no, ideas hang around. Or they wander off and come back to find you sat at your kitchen table in Levenshulme, Manchester, having breakfast and thinking to yourself, “I’d like to make more work in a shorter amount of time with fewer barriers to access. And I’d like it to be about fantasy within domestic settings. It’s got to be queer, it’s got to be colourful and it’s got to be fun. And I’d also like it to be about feeling (un)comfortable in your surroundings, wondering how your ideas or even your very own self, will survive the future. And I don’t want to do it on my own.”

And then this idea that you put to the back of your mind either because you dismissed it as ‘NOT AS IMPORTANT AS THIS OTHER AMAZING IDEA I’VE JUST HAD’ or accidentally left it behind at the pub when you and your wife Samantha were busy trying to avoid the press brushes some leaves and twigs from its fur and goes:

“Oi, DICKHEAD!”

You jolt upright, causing a little fountain of milk and Shreddies to leap into the air from your bowl.

“I’m. Right. Here.”

I’m not sure what happens at this point. Maybe you and the idea have a good old romantic kiss – with tongues and everything – just as the sunset rolls behind the ocean like a monstrous pink grapefruit and gives the sky a hot flush. Yeah, that’s good.

So, the tiger returns. I’ve used this, I don’t know – frusona? – to explore ideas of boredom and mundanity before but this year I’d like to take this tiger of mine back to Telford, the source of all my dreams, fears and frustrations. But since Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was Telford, I decided to do something a bit smaller and domestic in scale. For one miserable, wet Saturday, Rob interviewed me in my tiger costume and we followed whatever tumbled out of my brain as a structure for our subsequent filming. I’ll be working on turning this raw material into a short film over the coming months, and expanding it to include more creatures and locations in subsequent shoots if all goes well. Amazing, eh?

In the meantime, I’ve got a couple of other performances coming up soon, pretending to be a volcano and all that. Oh, now there’s an idea. Off I wander. Don’t mind me, ideas, I’ll be back in twelve months’ time.

 

 

Once More

I keep returning to a version of my life over and over again, several times – no, many times – each and every day, checking that it still has the same qualities it had when I left it, and adding some new ones I think it should have. I snip and prune it; I make it sit up straight and pull a shirt over its drowsy head; I buff it up until I can see my own reflection in the polished surface. Then when I meet my own gaze within the reflection I think, ‘Yes, good job’, and go back to another version of my life, which is also in urgent need of maintenance.

17 Warnings For Performances

This performance includes loud music, language of a sexual and surgical nature, and nudity.

This performance includes loud music, scenes of a violent and graphic nature, and a coda.

This performance includes slippery surfaces, electrical hazards and periods of complete black out.

This performance includes strobe lighting, smoke machines and live animals.

This performance includes fireworks, gunshots, and the beginnings of a revolution.

This performance includes extended scenes of abstract contemporary ballet on a pallet truck of perishable goods.

This performance includes scenes of explicit dentistry.

This performance includes me and me mum and me dad and me gran and and a trip to Waterloo.

This performance includes me and me mum and me dad and me gran and a bucket of Vindaloo.

This performance includes yer mum.

This performance includes really bad mime.

This performance includes E numbers and a high saturated fat content.

This performance includes tears, strangulation, a semi-comprehensible text about sodomy and regrets, regrets, regrets.

This performance includes a plastic jumping frog toy, which you will find in the sick bag located under your seat.

This performance includes a performance within a performance, which is actually within another performance (please keep up at the back there).

This performance includes so much irony.

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This performance contains real banana skins like the one pictured here.

OTP: Performance and I in 2015

This is a list of superlative moments within live art and theatre I’ve seen this year, written in the spirit of Owen G. Parry’s Fans Of Live Art project: I’ve recounted these moments in nerdy detail with fan-boy enthusiasm to people IRL, and I want to share them here too. If you’re as passionate about live art and theatre, I encourage you to make your own list and share it too.

 

Cristian Ceresoli: La Merda at The Lowry 

The first time the actor broke her repugnant, tremulent vocal mask and let rip a tidal wave of textual human effulgent, I was swept away. Jens Lekman wrote a great lyric once, which goes:

“Most shy people I know are extremely boring / Either that or they are miserable from all the shit they’ve been storing.”

This woman has been storing a lot of shit; shit about her body, her family, her sexuality, her desire for fame. Watching her expel it in a storm of reverb was one of the best moments of the year, no contest.

Karen Finley: ‘Black Sheep’ from Written In Sand at Barbican (SPILL Festival)

I heard A Certain Level of Denial in the summer, and saw her reimagine a lot of this classic material at SPILL later in October but it was this piece – unfamiliar to me at the time – that resonated the most. It took just three incisive lines from someone who has lived through a plague, the violence of a negligent and discriminatory society, and lost so many friends to turn the tap fully on my own emotions. It might not sound like much fun, but fuck, it felt cathartic.

Cassils: Inextinguishable Fire at National Theatre (SPILL Festival)

I watched someone set themselves on fire, which was a spectacular and densely-layered event in itself, but it was hearing the words “You’re on fire,” from the supporting crew as the flames engulfed Cassil’s silhouette that packed the greatest punch. The language is blunt; inadequate to describe the reality of what I witnessed – the smell, the sound – but somehow, in its inadequancy and uselessness, gained power as a simple statement of fact.

Zierle & Carter: Walking The Dawn at National Theatre (SPILL Festival)

It’s hard to pick a single moment from this 3 – 4 hour action about death, memory and endurance, but watching Alexandra Zierle kick and stomp up and down the terrace with a horse’s skull at her shoulder in the wind and rain, leaning perilously over the railings several flights above the ground bags it. Heart in throat, racing like a mouse’s heart.

Forced Entertainment: The Notebook at Contact

Ow, the ending to this performance. No spoilers, but it’s gut-wrenchingly cruel and kind of beautiful in its own heartless way. In fact,the whole show is also a masterclass on how to be fascinating for over two hours with just two actors, two chairs, two notebooks and the subtlest of changing lighting states but the ending…that ending.

Ron Athey: Sebastiane at Torture Garden at Coronet Theatre

The most orgasmically satisfying moment was when the double kick-drum started pummelling away at breakneck speed, Ron pierced with scores of arrows, and bleeding and speaking in toungues. Black metal’s inate theatricality became super, super queer. I now want to watch old Charlton Heston films with thrash metal soundtracks.

El Conde De Torrefiel: Scenes For A Conversation After Viewing A Michael Henke Film at Contact (FLARE Festival)

I’ve already written about this extensively elsewhere so rather than repeat myself, just have a read of this (warning: long)

Dead Centre: Lippy at The Lowry (SICK! Festival)

It’s a knotty, complicated show, but I felt like I almost touched heaven when the last sister got to her feet, reached up in the flickering lights and, with a roar, the lighting rig descended within inches of her extended fingertip.

A gasp.

Lights out.

Lucy McCormick: Calendar Girl at Cambridge Junction (Watch Out Festival)

Again, no spoilers, but the section on UK porn laws with Evanescence and a cheese sandwich will stay with me forever. What an amazing way to say “Fuck you,” whilst giving no fucks whatsoever.

Justin Vivian Bond: Mother’s Ruin at Contact

Its almost impossible to describe anything as ‘magical’ without sounding like a nursery school teacher, but seeing a drunk cabaret crowd go absolutely silent for an even drunker cabaret star performing a beautiful rendition of St. Vincent’s Prince Johnny is worthy of the epithet, and I don’t care if you think less of me.

Non-Stop

Refuse
Remain
Reject
Retry
Reserve
Reverse
Restart
Reuse
Re-enter
Retrain
Refrain
Relax
Renege
Relay
Relish
Relieve
Relive
Realise
React
Realign
Retaliate
Retell
Retail
Return
Repair
Reprieve
Regress
Regret
Regard
Regale
Recall
Record
Reckon
Re-examine
Revisit
Revile
Refill
Refer
Reform
Redeem
Redoubt
Redouble
Rebirth
Rebel
Revel
Regain