Helping Robert Brown out with a new filming project today
It’s been a busy few months since I last visited this blog. Let me fill you in on the details.
I spent much of October working with other artists: Daniel Bye on The Nine O’Clock News over in Lancaster for Lancaster Arts City’s First Friday programme, and GETINTHEBACKOFTHEVAN for The Live Art Community Musical over at Spill 2014 in Ipswich, which picked up a positive mention in Lyn Gardner’s 4 star summary of the festival.
November was spent working with Greg Wohead on a short R&D project in London, and tweaking a new version of Terminal Ferocity for Mother’s Bloomers, Salford and Cabaret Playroom at The Albany, London. I’ve been trying out a more ‘vivacious and salacious’ approach for this routine, which has been reasonably fun – but I’m actually gravitating back towards the boring. The boring is a big part of me, as much as it pains me to say it, and it feels strange to be making this performance without acknowledging it in some way. So I’m going to be going back to my humble routes and mundane habits; giving the tiger some tawdry grist to chew on.
Now it’s December: the weather is miserable, my last performance date for the year is approaching (Hashtag at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club) and the calendar for 2015 looks like it could do with some attention. So – see you later!
Except for a clip of Windy City on YouTube I’d not seen Calamity Jane before Saturday morning and in less than an hour after watching it, we were doing vocal warm ups with resident pianist and musical director Joe Hood and staging the opening scene in true ‘am dram’ style with everything being a potential role. “We need a Calamity! We need a stagecoach! Let’s have some tumble weed over here! etc”
The basic ethos was ‘anything goes’ (we could do as much or as little as we liked) but Lucy, Jen and Hester asked us to try throwing ourselves into whatever we did with as much energy and fearlessness as possible and to not shy away from aspects of the original film that are problematic.
I was game: I came hoping to explore endurance and exaggeration and had plenty of opportunities to do so thanks to a relentless can can and song routine playing the part of Francis Fryer. We worked on scenes and techniques for the second half of Saturday and all day today before putting together a performance that was by turns accomplished and ramshackle; sophisticated yet possessing the qualities of naivety and wide-eyed optimism that you might find in a primary school nativity performance. Some of it was straight up strange.
We watched the show back and as is probably the case with every other performer I was most concerned with how my own performances read. I enjoyed watching some of what I did and was disatisfied with other bits. I think I’ve seen first hand the difference in my performance work between commitment to a role (running on to announce the arrival of a stage) and exaggeration for exaggeration’s sake (hamming up a western accent for comedic effect). Everyone’s taste is going to be different but the latter felt too sickly sweet for me in comparison to the bits when I was trying to project a more ‘bold but truthful’ interpretation of the role.
I’ve also witnessed a new way of devising a performance based on existing materials. Having seen what it can produce I’m excited to take it further in future.
We’re over the halfway mark for the year and while the end of the 2013 is in sight (yes, I am looking quite far ahead) there are also fresh beginnings afoot.
This weekend I’ll be heading for a weekend in Cambridge to join GETINTHEBACKOFTHEVAN for ‘The Deadwood Stage’, the first in a series of DIY10 workshops that I’m attending. Facilitated by the Live Art Development Agency, they’re being held by artists across the country throughout the rest of this year. So, later in October I’ll be joining Dickie Beau in London for ‘Immaculate Perceptions’ and then November will see me travelling to Chichester to work with Neil Bartlett for ‘I Live Here’. Over the course of these workshops I will be exploring DIY live art approaches to musical theatre, how the circumstances of one’s birth might impact our later lives and how to excavate one’s own history as a source of material for performance.
There were lots of great workshops to choose from but these three felt the most relevant to my interests at the moment. The very fact that was a consideration is a big testament to the breadth of the DIY series has to offer. I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences with you!