Originally this post was going to be about my first experience of performing as an act as a part of a performance and comedy night and presenting work in a context outside of my comfort zone. It was going to be about my anxieties of performing in a situation where I didn't know the other artists or material performed before or after me, not knowing what mood they were going to create and the tone they would set. (In hindsight, whether performing as a part of a bill or performing a full length show, we never know where an audience has been, how they’re day has gone or where they are going afterwards. We don’t know if their feet are stinging hot and swollen because they have been standing up for 9 hours and desperately want to take their shoes off, or if they are nervously anticipating a hospital check-up that they have tomorrow. We have no idea)
Instead of being about context this post is about content.
I was invited to perform at a wonderfully curated night called "Piñata" . As a theatre-maker I have never been part of a line up so I was hesitant to take the opportunity, but they reassured me that it was a supportive environment with a curious audience. So I thought that if I was going to be out of my comfort zone I should really be as far out of it as physically possible: I decided to perform in a way that I hadn't done before. It wasn't a groundbreaking new style that would leave audiences dribbling, but it felt personally quite radical.
I sat on a chair and told a personal story about a nosebleed I had.
I'm currently in the very early stages of developing a new solo show. I have a story that I want to blow up and explore all the possible shards that it is made of. By performing the stimulus in its rawest form, I hoped to see if it is in fact of interest to anyone other than myself and worth exploring further. Good news is that it is!
There was something so comfortable about telling a story in the moment without having to learn lines. It felt natural and authentic. Afterwards however, when I was in the bar, I became extremely self-conscious and felt that I couldn’t look at anyone in the eye. I felt like a plumped up cushion, unsettled. It wasn’t a cathartic experience as nothing was released or let go. I had revealed a story with very personal details to a group of strangers, presented it as Art and it didn’t quite sit right in my bones.
I started to think about what it means to “suffer for your art”. On one side, that phrase can mean using difficult experiences or trauma to create work but, and in this instance, it may refer to the difficulty or consequences of sharing something personal, and what that can cost you emotionally. Creator of Happenings, Allan Kaprow, suggested “The line between art and life should be kept as fluid, and perhaps as indistinct as possible” (taken from Heddon’s Autobiography and Performance 2008) , and although I do agree with this to some extent maybe its about understanding how you filter your work and yourself on stage.
Since then I have thought a lot about what methods can be utilised to protect myself as a performer when working with auto-biographical material, and the form that auto-biographical material can take. The new show that I am developing is to do with delayed reactions and losing control over your body so the question is how do I remain in control of the piece that is to do with losing it? What does it look and feel like to be in and out of control and how will that develop the form of the piece?
What I realised through performing at Piñata was that as a solo artist it is important to push yourself out of your comfort zones. It can often be easy to stay with the familiar and run with a set routine when you are the one driving the work, so it is important to keep surprising yourself even if the idea of it makes you feel uncomfortable.