Archives for category: The Secret Life of You and Me

A lot has happened to The Secret Life of You and Me in the last few months. I have nipped and tucked it. And now, months and performances later, I have cut off all the threads. It makes sense to me. I like it.

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It has been in rehearsal in Manchester, premièred in Ovalhouse, London, before flitting to The HUB, Leeds, UCLAN, Preston, Oldham Library and Old Cinema Launderette, Durham. Each place has changed it. Now, it is neatly folded ready to travel, waiting for an airing, like Shirley Valentine.

Things that I have thought about during this time:

Who I am making art for.

In the nervy time of unveiling a show (a solo show) (a studio show) (a show I have asked you to see) (in London) (I am not from London) I thought: I want the reviewers in, I want the producers in; you know, the ones everyone knows, the ones that feel like gatekeepers of: THE ARTWORLD. They didn’t come, it was not an overnight hit, I was not War Horse. It seems crazy now that this should have disappointed me, that I should get sidetracked like this. It’s not fair that I should be cross about the people that didn’t come.

I started to think about the people that did come, that hugged me afterwards, that stuck around to tell me something, that just walked away. The three women from a nursing home on the front row with their carer, the pack of school girls, the locals that gave me a shot. So from now on, I am going to put all my energies into making art (which is what I do)  for people that want to come and see it (which they do).

When I was out in Brazil I made a show and it was mainly political activists and groups of feminists that came- the post show discussion was the best I’ve been in, a reminder of how art can help us to see life in new ways, different ways…mean something, matter. They invited us to perform in the forest for the MST (Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement). It was a definite exchange. Something happened. It was enough. It was undocumented.

It is such a relief to figure this out.

It is enough.

Touring is tough.

How to persuade people that have never heard of you, never mind your little show, to give it go, if you’re from out of town. To come out in the rain. I think you need to be just as creative on the strategy as on the art you want to peddle. I think we can invent it, and it is not heavy on print or press releases. Things that I think have helped and might help: ‘Pay What You Decide’ policy like at The HUB, it might make people to take a chance more, it is less risky if you are skint; inventive add-on activities like at Ovalhouse we had a Valentine’s workshop, a roving tea trolley, themed drinks in the bar; actually, to get out of the theatre in general- it was refreshing to see people come along that would go to a library or a gig, but not a theatre, it was nice to hear people talking back to me during the show when it happened in a launderette. It was there I remembered,  in between the artwork and the audience, the art is happening. It is a once in a lifetime encounter. Local papers and local radio and word of mouth are still more effective than Facebook and Twitter. There is nothing like getting out there into the real world, where people are under no obligation to come or click ‘like’.

Get over yourself. And forgive yourself.

I am not sure I have the exact formula for this. Don’t mind what the other artists are doing, trust your way. Remember what sort of art that makes your heart go boom. For me that is evidence of hard work, vulnerability, daring, thought, trust. The art does not need to be liked, it is not seeking approval. It exists anyway. Then there is space to see it, and maybe for it to be liked or disliked. I am getting more comfortable with performing, by remembering it’s really like having a party and checking your guests are alright.

Punk art love forever.

Grow from the ground up, rather than the ceiling down. Invent the way to make a show, to tour a show. It is hard and empowering. It will shape the way for others. Be inspired, not intimidated! Think sideways! DIY or DIE!

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Read Helmut Lemke’s BAA Manifesto it is reaffirming.

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A day with Leentje Van de Cruys helped me no end. The best thing she said to me was:

REHEARSING IS NOT REPEATING (apparently that’s the only thing she writes on the whiteboard for her students all year).

Of course. It made me realise there is no right or wrong way. There is just the way.

Together we forgot the show had already been made, remembered that this is a creative act until the end and allowed myself to mess it up again. I made a patterns out of bits of script and suddenly fell in love with the act of making.

Look the script is not in a line anymore! And I saw a Danish detective do the same thing with some evidence last night:

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There it is, the show as I left it. I’m not sure if it’s the empty office space where I’m based this week, or paper in a line, but it is none too inspiring.

2014-01-27 18.12.40Even with Jenny from The Future reclined on a chaise lounge, it felt kind of flat. And on this first day, I couldn’t help thinking, if only I knew what the RSC do. There must be some ‘right way’.

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There are these weird statues around the empty office, and I left the first day thinking: I definitely don’t feel like them.

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Almost a year ago I performed my first solo show on my thirtieth birthday. I kept a blog of the process to remember how I got there. I am glad I did. It is a scatty reminder of how the plan unfolded. So I am picking it up again, the show and the blog, on what I wonder might be the final edit…

enquirewithin

Well, due to making a show, I did not make a blog about making a show. The last week was a case of all hands on deck. Late nights learning lines, making animations, inviting people, eating, breathing, greeting friends who’d come up to see it. Then there’s things like making a programme, picking out a costume, making merchandise. Honestly, it was like a GCSE Art Project all over again. With less Gustav Klimt.

I made a little book, that will be available soon, but in the meantime I will leave you with something that I learnt during this process:

internet feature

Video and documentation coming soon for the show. Keep your eye on it here.

Next week I will begin making the show at The Lowry, after two weeks in a small dark art studio at University of Salford. It is ready to start breaking out of the space, so things can sit and stand next to each other, like arranging plants in a garden. At the moment I have picked my plants, but they are uprooted saplings. The art school was a nice place for ideas to germinate, with many things on hand: OHP’s, saws, safety goggles…

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I presented two sharings on Friday afternoon to some students, the creative team and Hotpants Romance. This was useful. New eyes, offerings, links between material. You close your eyes, hope for the best and then it makes you realise there’s something there, to be going on with. It has a feeling, life of it’s own.

Now I have a show that feels like a prawn between chopsticks: fragile, small, unravelling…

prawn

 

After a week of generating work and feeling almost breezy, today it dawned on me: I have set myself up to make a show about ‘life’. How do you edit that together?

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Things I’ve learnt today. I do not work well doing a 10-6 in a black studio. Maybe because I am not a trained actor, but I prefer moving around. Sitting on stairs. Writing on buses. Then dropping in to  the studio, and matching that up to the other things I’ve brought back and looking a little closer. Like a bird picking  up worms and sticks in the garden before flying back to it’s nest every now and again. The studio should be a nest not a cage. And if you’re not in it very much, it doesn’t mean you’re not a professional person (or bird). Perhaps this is what happens when a visual artist makes a performance, it’s a bit more swervey.

Collaborating and delegating will save you. Company is good and it is exciting to see lots of channels of your project running along together. Today Lisa kept things in order. Catherine and Lindsay, two contemporary theatre students from UCLAN called in to help out and see where I was up to. Here they are in the office (corridor) with all mod-cons (typewriters). The clackety-clacks and pings made today sound very industrious and 1950’s. It was a performance in itself. I hope they will one day star in a new tv series set in a  secretarial school, as they climb the ropes (ribbons?) to hundreds of words per minute and bright futures in the big city…

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Tomorrow: I have a morning in, an afternoon out and an evening eating pizza whilst plotting lights. Don’t forget to send any memories you’d miss on any condensation and send a photo to: mymissingmemory@gmail.com. Thank you!

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I’ve realised I don’t want to give too much away about this show! It is ‘the secret life of you and me’ after all, and no one likes a tell-tale. No one need know about time wondering in onesie. Here are some photos that capture the week: it has been one of fun experiments and being a rubbish ghost. I’ve been out on some secret missions, trying to get close to you.

Then like a cat bringing in dead mice, I have brought these little actions into the studio. Something exciting is happening…now tomorrow me and Liz are having a day out I don’t know where ‘but don’t worry,’ she says, ‘nowhere your Greater Manchester bus card won’t take you’.

Expect clues, as to what the show might grow to be over the coming days…

Writing (with the audience in mind):

lecture hall

Stars (my mum’s fairy lights):

stars

 

Causing mischief at a taxi rank.

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Can you help? Iwould love to hear from you. Make the most of the wet weather and tell me something true:a call outI need your photos by Friday 18th January. Anonymity guaranteed. For more info contact: mymissingmemory@gmail.com

Today has been good. I didn’t give panic a chance to get the better of me today, because I came with a plan! Fill the walls with every spark of an idea, past and present! Pile up bits of stuff that you find inexplicably interesting! Eat a Twix!

Piles of Stuff.

When the zest started to wear off a bit, I went for a walk (advice from Rob Evans, an excellent writer, he is unrelated). I walked around Salford Shopping Precinct in search of inspiration. As I  tried to find some, I thought about how I would explain what I was up to to anybody around me. Why they should care. What we could tell each other. And I came up with this:

  1. I just had to make this performance and The Lowry let me.
  2. I spend a lot of time with people with dementia and I’ve been turned upside down after a  long distance relationship.
  3. These things have left me asking, in the month before I turn thirty, what does all this matter? What are the moments that truly mean something and you’d never want to lose? What do we leave behind?

Then I did a show-and-tell for the lovely Lisa Mattocks who did a lot of listening. And that thing happened where between us connections started to be made about the scraps of material. There is a lot  and most of it must end up in the bin. But for now it’s ok to have an awful lot of ‘show’.

Another highlight today was I also got to don safety goggles and use the power saw to cut up some rolls of wallpaper. And I begun for the first time ever to think- oh yeah! This feels like the way I make things. Chatting, getting out and about, making an object in an art studio.

Tomorrow I have some secret missions to do. Watch out.

 

 

It’s here and it’s in my hands:

The Secret Life of You and Me

So after a year of scratching, sharing and reflecting; I pick it up again, to complete. It has been a good year, and my mistakes have (like always) been the most useful. At least now I know a bit more about what I don’t want to make, and by sheer process of elimination, that must make me closer to what I do want to make.

 

I woke up ready for the day because I’d got dyed hair and it was sunny and there was no going back now. One of the best things of putting yourself into tricky situations like performing is you can’t get out of it. By being in a mess, you’ve got to just get on with it, go beyond the love / hate / love / hate / love / hate / love / hate  stages of a process, and see where you are at the other end. To do that is to truly grow.

It’s funny dedicating a period of time to making and thinking about something can come full circle. This morning when Rachel and I pulled together thirty minutes of material to share, and a lot of my early thoughts are there. Thoughts that I’ve had that I want to take further are:

  • Traces of relationships, friendships, solitude and how the past exists in the present
  • The Nature of Longing. How it can be easier to long for a face, a person, an existence. How do you cope with longing for abstract things, unpromised things, unknown things? Like happiness, fulfilment, family. I can long for a loved one  and you can relate to that. What about those times when we’re looking out of windows, with the washing machine on, drinking tea, wondering how we got here and where we’re going. What are we longing for?
  • What is my place in the world?
The day was  brilliant. About 25 people came to the sharing, friends, people from the Arts Council, people from Salford University, people from The Lowry, people I’d worked with. Like Fergus said it was the right crowd to take risks with. That moment just before everyone came into the room, I poured cava and listened to Moon River Cha Cha Cha version. And I thought what a lucky position to be in, it’s a small step but it’s what I’ve wanted. A little over a year ago at Amy’s house we drew out big brainstorms of everything we wanted, when we felt very faraway from what we wanted. And inbetween the ‘do more yoga’ and ‘get a Chihuahua’ bits was a biro spider arm that lead to ‘make a show, do something you’re proud of, see if you can get funding?’. Then it happened.
The main feedback was it was intimate and vulnerable; that it was funny and sad. It was very positive. I now need time to let it settle, and reflect, as probably the audience do, before I can elicit a meaningful evaluation on the matter.
Now, to get on with real life (how do you do that again? A phone call to one of my oldest friends Emma this morning is a start, talk of summer dresses and weekends and sheds) until May 31 at Contact with Word of Warning. Come, I will perform some of this stuff, and new stuff then…
And a birthday card from Kerry Morrison who thought it was actually my thirtieth birthday (sorry and thank you!). A big thanks to everyone who has come along with me into this adventure into the unknown and to you for reading this blog.

It was the day before the sharing. There was a shift from just being in the process (to play and push ideas) to now thinking about the product at the end, a small sharing. It was the day when my dream masterpiece seemed quite far from the fragments of performance that I had to work with. It was a good job that Rachel was around, because in a fortnight of being around so many people, conversations and activities, I needed someone to stick with me, and see it through. That’s one of the things I’ve learnt from this two weeks. The need for continuity through a process. Perhaps that is less important at this research phase, which has been about experimentation, but the only constant in this piece has been me. I think in the later stage of development leading up to the show, I would need to work with less people for longer periods.

We pieced together half of the sharing. I felt a conflict between wanting to show ‘arty things’, like blank slides and made up memories  and English subtitles; and ‘honest things’, like chatting and eating crisps. But the arty things had started to feel out of place. Maybe because they weren’t ready yet, and maybe because I only wanted them there in an attempt to prove I’m ‘good’. Rachel really came into her own here, and said we want to see your truth, be honest. A very kind and questioning pair of outside eyes, that I couldn’t have done without. We called it a day because I was going pale with the pressure of it all.

I felt very uncertain. But whilst losing my mind that evening in Asda buying cava, I thought this is precisely why I’m making the show: because I feel very uncertain in the world. I can’t share a perfect, certain thing. I want you to be with me whilst I falter, flutter, fall, fail, find. Because I think we all do that sometimes. I don’t want perfect, I can’t give you perfect.

Another good thing was a phone call to Fergus Evans, who is helping me with production, and said whilst you have so many brilliant people in a room experiencing your work (which is what you’ve always wanted, right?) TAKE RISKS! It’s the perfect bed for these things to happen. It’s a sharing, not a show.

So I did my roots, had a small bottle of cava (I can’t place whether those miniature bottles of wine are either very thrifty or a real treat) and read over my notes from the entire fortnight (that’s a lot of index cards and A3 sugar paper scrawlings). I thought, in my tipsy-night-before brain: be a canary down the mine of humanness, and come out alive Lowri!

I have made the transition from the middle bit of a process to the end bit. I’ve pushed through the lovely beginning part that’s full of ideas, experiments, hope; today I’ve left behind the middle part which gets full of vagueness in the expanse of possibilities…and now I’m ready for the end. I can nearly touch it. I’m excited to have discovered what it is I’ve got to say right now; and am ready to share it with you. I have learnt so much, and tried so many things, now I can focus on how I’ll share that with you.

Rachel and I begun to piece together a structure, putting together bits that stuck. We did it by drawing pictures, making up section titles and switching them around. Visualising the show in this way is good. We mapped the music, costume, technical and drinks during the piece underneath. That elusive arc has started to emerge, by just getting on with it, giving it a go. Rachel is very good at locating structure in chaos. It’s funny, a lot of stuff that I thought about right at the beginning of the process has come back in. There’s something to be said for instincts.

Then I stroked an owl on my lunchbreak.

And I spent the afternoon experimenting with the new parts of the arc and turning on the projector. I spent a couple of hours speaking to Richard Gregory, about ageing, the space between a performance and an audience, and the what-ness of a piece of work. The afterwards, the ‘what was that’. It was illuminating.

Léonie joined me towards the end of the day. I ran through the paper rainbow of ideas on the floor and she told me what it felt like for her, and then I told her what I wanted it to feel like. Always grab a friend in at this stage, it’s the perfect testing ground for emerging work, with just the right amount of encouragement. After a backstage tour of The Lowry with Porl, we drank tea in polystyrene cups and ran to the tram. Cheers!

Today was a good day despite Leo stipulating I needed to wear ‘warm up gear’. This is something that for nigh on a decade of theatre making I have managed to avoid (it started years ago ‘forgetting’ my P.E. kit). I’m just not that way inclined.

Anyway, that was about as scary as it got. I’ve known Leo Kay for a few years through different projects at Contact. I was keen to work with him because he has been developing work that is warm, intimate and autobiographical. We like a lot of the same pieces of art (usually both experimental and accessible), and love Brazil.

The day was made up of writing exercises, conversation and movement.  The main theme that came out of all the work was of presence and absence. We started with an hour long meditation exercise: blindfolded and active. It set me free! I forgot about my body and went floating around the world. We went straight from there into a writing exercise which caught me off guard and made me cry. The meditation is something I’d never have tried in relation to making work, but it definitely opened up my thought process and made me aware of existing, which are good states to be creative in.

In the afternoon Sophie and Léonie came along to join in the free writing and blindfolded dancing activities. They offered some good feedback on my work, and it feels reassuring having their presence along the process, as Sophie says, it’s less scary to say ‘we’ than ‘I’.

Here we are with Malteasers, coloured pens and water.

The last part of the afternoon started to span out into thinking about an arc (that arc again!) for the sharing or the show. To resist my urges to end things abruptly; to let smaller things join up; to take the audience on a journey.

Today has been a bit dithery. My old friend panic paid a visit so rather than focusing on the process, I fretted about the end product. This is my first solo show project so I have nothing to compare it to. It is like uncovering the mystery of how I create work. So far, chatting, dressing up, making lists, writing memories on postcards, serving food and taking a magnifying glass to the smallest details seem key to the approach.

However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. I arrived at The Lowry with a bag of feathers and pack of Jammy Dodgers and was met by people that smile and make me smile, Porl and Tuheen. This is Studio 2, my home for the week. It is a nice space to be, there are two magpies that keep watching what’s happening at the window, and you can see the river running by. Salford was shiny and sunlit.

I revisited existing material, and read Breakfast at Tiffany’s. This was the perfect point for Sonia to arrive and sort me out. I felt I’d been creeping round the edges of the work like a sulky cat or nervous goat. Sonia is great at listening and giving advice. We talked a lot about using text in the piece: she gave me some simple starting points, ideas about classic storytelling arcs and the need to interrogate a subject. We both felt that the piece could be in danger of skitting about, with a confetti of many moments, and nothing more. I want this to be a big booming heart of a show!

Next Steve called in and we looked at the space and set up some technical things, and made a list of things to get by Wednesday. Again a bit tricky when the piece is unknown to me, but he seems quite relaxed and happy to respond to the needs of the piece as it unfolds day by day. It is nice to work in this way with a team of people that a).  you like and b). care about the project. The equipment I am using so far is turning out to be a bit seventies secondary school.

Anyway I’m off to pick up Leo Kay from the train station for a day together tomorrow (how this is happening, I’ll never know- it’s turning into a national operation).

Goodnight Mr Magpie, goodnight Mrs Magpie.

I’m not that virtuous that I work all the time. Today was just for 13 minutes. Richard Gregory from Quarantine is one of the artists working on this process and makes brilliant work. This morning he was in Cornwall and I was in Manchester so we worked together remotely. He set me the task of dancing a duet with him. We were to pick 3 songs and dance together.

1. Anthony and the Johnsons ‘Fistful of Love’

2. Cyndi Lauper ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’

3. Arthur Russell ‘Lucky Cloud’

We spoke on the phone before and after. We had similar thoughts and surprisingly similar reactions. There were waves of thinking of yourself here, thinking of yourself there, thinking of the other person here and thinking of the other person there. Swerving through presence and absence. I also felt that it was an act of trust; it can only succeed if both of you have faith and commit to it (like most communication). I like the mystery that I will never know what Richard got up to in those 13 minutes. How do any of us know what we really do? I’ll only share this: my silly silver bridesmaid shoes I wore for the occasion (very Stictly, I thought).

Richard also observed that I have a lot of close relationships far away. I am thinking about how can you be present when you’re absent? Looking forward to meeting up next week and exploring this further.

That’s right, it’s the weekend and all this research and developing is still going on. No cartoons, no football and no lie-in for me today. Thanks to the brilliant organisation that is Word of Warning taking me under their wing, I got to spend the day with Peader Kirk, a director and theatre maker. This is to help guide whatever it is that I am sharing with the general public on May 31 at Contact (come!).

We identified how a lot of the work I make is about wanting to share something, and also not wanting to bother anyone. Both those things seem to happen in everything I do. I have a kind of ‘don’t let me keep you’ approach to performance. It also raised the question: who is the audience in my work? What is the performance? I expose the construct of my performance a lot so the process becomes the performance.

We looked at how a visual score could be the starting point to constructing work. He liked a book that I made, and posed the question of how that graphic use of space, text and objects could be applied to a performance. A way of forcing you to think sideways. Like what would you do with this:

Or I suppose one of my own would be:

We danced a little bit towards the end. Then I got a phone call off my mum and dad who’d turned up in Manchester after going to a nearby National Trust property. What a weekend!

Today was the halfway point of the process. Rachel and I looked over everything that had been created. Tiny vignettes assembled themselves on a page.

We talked a lot about honesty. It has become clear that the piece isn’t about turning thirty, that’s just when it’s happening. It is about our tiny flicker of time of existence in the big infinite universe.

I had to leave the studio today, so I took things down and sorted them out. I put posters up to invite the students I’ve been getting to know along to my sharing, and washed up my ‘Best 21 Year Old’ mug and left it to dry.

Next week: The Lowry. It has been really liberating being in an art school to make a performance. I think it has both freed me up and kept my feet on the ground.