Yesterday I did my first press interview about the project with the Western Mail. It felt particularly strange and complex to be discussing the project with the press since it’s not exactly the kind of thing that one can ‘sell’ as a finished product. The reporter was genuinely interested and engaged by what I’m doing but at the heart of our conversation he asked me a key question that has been bothering me for the last week or so:
“So, are you sort of waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, worrying about drying up and running out of things to say?”
The short answer to that is ... not really ...
Ask me again in six days time and my answer may well be very different but at the moment I feel less and less scared as the offerings get nearer. Now, why should this be? Anyone who has read my blog about doing John Dawson’s public speaking course (Taking My Place In The World) will know that I fear standing in front of a room full of people as much as any sane person. Yes, I get very nervous, yes, I get a massive adrenalin dose, yes, it makes me feel sick. But for some reason, the closer I get to the OEM, the calmer I feel.
The reason for this lies in one of my answers to the interviewer yesterday – he asked about if I was worried about ‘getting it wrong’ and, after all the thinking I’ve been doing and remembering the TED talk by Kathryn Schulz, I said – “Well, I can’t possibly get it wrong because there is no ‘right’ to be wrong about.” These offerings will simply be what they are – sometimes they may feel ‘comfortable’ and smooth – meaning that subjects flow and ideas blossom and flourish – and sometimes they may be ‘uncomfortable’ and bumpy – meaning that we (myself and Gareth and the audience) get stuck on an issue or an idea or a quandary and simply have to sit with it and work through it. But there is no way for it to be wrong.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about my energy level and the need I obviously feel as a seasoned performer and actor to want to deliver a ‘show’ for the audience. After all, they have each paid £3 and given up a couple of hours of their life. Surely, in return for that commitment, I should ensure that I return that in kind. And I firmly intend to – but the manner in which I do it will not be the way I ordinarily would choose. This is being thrown into sharp relief by my ongoing illness.
I’m on big doses of steroids and on a day to day basis my energy levels fluctuate wildly – from manic to nothing. In order to ensure that I continue to get well and have time and energy for my body to cope with the illness I simply have to ensure that each performance is ‘real’; i.e. I’m not pretending to be anything other than I am. If I’m tired, I have to be tired. If I’m manic, I have to be manic.
As I keep saying to Gareth, there are no smoke and mirrors in this work. What you see is what you get. No attempt to hide behind anything. Whether that makes for theatre or ‘art’, who knows? But I’m really interested to find out.
Yesterday, Gareth and I spent some time in the second Swansea venue – the foyer of the Civic Centre on Oystermouth Road. It’s a big, municipal building – huge foyer area made of concrete.
It’s a place where people come to wait – for their opportunity to interact with bureaucracy. It’s not usually or ever been a place for a performer and an audience to meet. But it will be in a few weeks ...
I’ll blog regularly over the coming few days leading up to the work and will do a daily blog about the shows afterwards. As ever, please let me have any thoughts or comments either here or on the facebook page. This work really is about a conversation.