Shame-an-isms

I was out with a friend a couple of nights ago, Off to see Wolverine 2 (pretty shite BTW), when she said to me, “now don’t get offended, but I read your recent blog post: ‘Home Again’ and I couldn’t pick out one line to quote, rave about, to celebrate and tell all my friends about, to get them to read it.”  I felt the same.  It was nice.  Easy reading. That was it.

The last 7 months have been really exciting, but also really emotionally tough.  I’ve travelled a lot, doing some amazing collaborations along the way and  on the day I left England for my long journey away, we gained the largest funding support we have ever had, to develop the company. At the same time I have had some very dark personal times.

Throughout all of these experiences, the line between public and private has been hard to walk.  What do you tell the world of what you are doing and going through and what do you leave out?  I am emotional.  An emotional person.  I need to express and keep fit, to keep some sort of stability.

Throughout my travels I felt I had to smile and celebrate the opportunities and not express the dark times; the crazy falling apart of one collaborative situation, the sporadic sadness in my personal life and the loneliness of a travelling artist.  But by repressing this I couldn’t put together an integrated, excited, exciting and most importantly authentic post, so I just didn’t post.

With this incredible funding we have received, we are having to step closer to what I maybe naively have considered the devils teet.  We have to consider corporate engagement to sustain the company, structuring and strategising, a board.  So much of which I have been trying to run away from through a mixture of an unwillingness to grow up, a political stance and the inevitability of the journey away from art and towards admin that a company structure suggests. But also an innate awareness of everything that Mark Ravenhill talks about in his recent speech at the opening of the Edinburgh festival.

I am excited and inspired by the possibilities that this whole journey suggest, but with this journey there is the fear and shame of feeling that you might be selling out and not knowing whether that can be a public feeling.  With shame, for me comes a stepping back, a closing down, a quieting of my integrated self.

When I read my last blog, nothing in particular struck me as vital, as walking the line, as taking a risk. It was all true, but it was all too easy, surface, box ticking, correct, ‘nice’.

The friend who spoke out about the blog is a real friend.  I feel like she believes in my ability to inspire myself and her, so told me it was lacking.  It’s 4.18am and last weekend I did a course in Shamanism.  I told 4 people about it. I didn’t tell my brother or most close friends.  I was embarrassed that I am still into exploring ‘that hippy shit’.  One of the friends I told tried to coax it out of me in company.  I shut down; embarrassed and angered the he would try and use the information as a social conversation piece.  But his instinct was right.  Why be fucking embarrassed that I am looking for ways of healing, of feeling better, of fending off depression, of moving on and learning how to let go, of seeking alternatives to our health system norms of therapy and medication. Subsequently, I took my cynicism along to the workshop and had a conflicted time.  Shame stopped me giving myself completely.  Shame stopped me writing an integrated post…

I am now reading a book on the subject by Brene Brown: Daring Greatly, an easy read with some cheese and some important ideas.  My thoughts are not original, but they do act as a double-handed samurai sword**  swinging with intent against the deadening attack on visceral, heartfelt, expression that a self-censoring head state imposed on me.

This terrain of personal and public, art, profession and politics isn’t that easy to navigate.  But it feels like the only way I can try and find my edge, is to put it all out there and fuck the shame! Maybe this post not the last one should have been called ‘Home Again’.

**wolverine 2…still a shite film even with samurai action

bad blog

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Unfinished Business this summer…

I’m sitting in Sao Paulo airport with a little coffee and a Greg’s-style pasty in hand, heading back to finish directing a show in collaboration with Pilar Fortes and her company Os Shakespirados, in Terezinha in the North East of Brazil. I’m sitting here trying to reflect on the last 6 weeks working in brazil….I’m finding it hard! I think because the projects I’ve been working on have been so diverse and so intense, and have challenged me in such different ways.

Mmmm more time for reflection needed!! So this blog will be about the future company activities instead…

On my way out here I received the amazing news that we had been offered a grant from ACE to develop the company.  So as well as many company development activities and planning a summer tour for Only Wolves and Lions, we will be beginning the research for our next company project, Change My Mind, an 18 month process and performance based collaboration between artists and scientists to explore the affect radical action can have on the human mind. (More on this to come!)

Only Wolves and Lions will be back out on the road from July through to September in a small, but perfectly formed tour, stopping in Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh (See here for dates).  Whilst in Brazil I have been collaborating with the filmmaker and DJ Sam Campbell who acquired the ‘handle’ (nickname) Samuka while out here.  So DJ Samuka will be out on the road with Only Wolves and Lions dropping an eclectic collection of tunes to tantalise the taste buds!  Finally, please take a look at our new video, created by Remi Stewart.

More on Brazil soon…

 

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As the wheels become airbourne my stomach flips

Written on 22nd March 2013, published on 28th March 2013.

Two days ago, I was in Birmingham at Midlands Arts Centre for the second/last performance of the most recent work I directed: If Walls Could Speak, a performance mixing theatre, live grafitti, jazz vocals, spoken word and theatre, envisioned by graffiti artist Mohammed Ali.  The development process and the show itself were both really successful in many ways; the concept and form were artistically ambitious, full of creative risks and the content had a depth of research that honoured the complex blend of voices expressed.  The show happened  around the audience on raised platforms with the audience of 200 standing in the centre of the stripped down theatre space.  Sub bass speakers were positioned under the staging provoking a heightened and more emmersive sensorial experience.  Both of the two evenings completely sold out, to a really mixed audience, most of whom lived within a five mile radius of mac, but had never been to an event there.  The show just felt right, not only as a self contained piece of exciting work, but in relation to my ongoing interest in performance as healing.

Before I carry on about the show, I have a little anecdote which I love and constantly repeat…  One day, about 10 years ago, in Dubai, where I was performing in a minimal techno driven version of Tarzan to 3000 parents and children daily (all true…) a dear friend, the director of the show who was also performing along side me  in it, hit his elbow on a scaffolding bar.  A month later, back in Cardiff, with an elbow the size of a football, he visited an acupuncturist. This accupuncturist was by chance the official acupuncturist for the Chinese Olympic team, working in Cardiff whilst his wife completed a PHD there.  He inflicted the most painful treatments my friend had ever experienced but cured his elbow in two session.  During the second session he looked at my friends hands and said, “You are very lucky that you are an artist.  If you didn’t have an artistic outlet, you would have psychological problems, your nerves are very close to the surface.”   This statement rings true for me and seems relevant for many people I know, those who have outlets and those who do not.

Back to the project.  I first met Mohammed at RichMix (Hackney) on a cold October night to discuss his initial inspiration and the driving themes behind the work.  He wanted to create homage to Sparkbrook, an area of Birmingham where he spent much of his childhood, but which the media associates primarily with Muslim extremists and CCTV surveillance.  He was interested in exploring the swathes of migrant communities that have settled then since WW2.  So was I, but I was also interested in his personal investment, I wanted to find out how his own story figured in the areas history.

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Lead Artist Mohammed Ali infront of half finished Mural

The performance became a collage, which mixed verbatum information and anecdotes of Sparkbrook residence with Mohammed’s own memories and reflections from growing up in the area.  His father’s restaurant set the scene for a brilliantly contradictory piece of writing about faith, servitude, abuse of hospitality and violence.  On the final day of rehearsal, Mohammed sat in the area on stage that depicted the restaurant in the position his father would have taken on tabel number 16 and for the last third of the show moved between this position and the creation of a mural behind the scene.  At one point, we had to halt the rehearsal as tears flowed down his cheeks.  The show had shifted something within him and from the audience response; it seemed to provoke profound reflection in the audience present.

For myself, having spent the month before this project on the verge of depression, for several work related and personal reasons, not to mention the friggin’ weather, If walls Could Speak healed my darkness, it allowed me to feel free to be dinamic and creative around artists I admire and connect with, engaged in a project I believed in.  Though we worked hard and stretched ourselves, I left the experienced fired up and charged with energy.

I am writing this post by hand, in a black sketchbook, on the last leg of a 20-hour journey to Teresina, Piaui, North East Brazil.  I’m on my way to Brazil for several projects, the first of which is a collaboration  with Pilar Fortes and her company Os Shakespirados on their latest show, Memorias Cala Te Ja! (Memories Shut Your Mouth!) for the Curitiba international Festival of Theatre.  A new project, in a completely new place, a new collaboration and a new context for my relationship to Brazil!

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Decent in to Terezina, Wing, sky and the river Parnaiba

It’s 10.35am and we are just about to take off from Brazilia.  I’ve been in text communication with Anna Smith (co-founder and producer of Unfinished Business), because we’re waiting on the response from Arts Council England for our biggest grant to date.  It would support: 1. the development of our organisation (i.e. instead of giving us fish (spondoooliks) it would help teach us to fish for ourselves!), 2. the summer tour of Only Wolves And Lions and 3. the initial research process for our next major company project Change My Mind.  The plane is late taking off; I instinctively turn my phone back on.  The plane begins its roll down the runway with increasing velocity and as the nose tips to the sky and the wheels become airborne my stomach flips as I read a text from Anna which says: ‘We fucking got it!’

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Last London winter walk of 2012/13. Hampstead Heath.

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If Walls Could Speak

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One week to go on the new show I am directing (freelance) in Birmingham presented at the Midlands Arts Centre on the 17th/18th of March.  Lead artist and vision by Mohammed Ali the Graffiti artist and street muralist behind Soul City Arts. It has been a blast.  I remember that in portuguese when something feels right or like you are at home, you say I’m back on my beach: estou de volta na minha praia…with this process I feel like I’ve got the swimwear, sunnies and rum’n’ginger.  It feels right.  The jokes, the wit, the beauty of the writing, the talent sparking.  It feels like home.

Working once again with two artists (poets, performers and MC’s) whose work I love:  RTkal and  Martin Stanage and new encounters with bubbling spirits: Stephen Morrisson Burke (Birmingham Poet Laureate) MC Conrad long time collaborator with  LTJ Bukem and now moving into new forms of performance and Cleveland Watkiss (Jazz vocalist Extraordinaire) alongside the live visual tapestry created by artist Mohammed Ali.  Two dear friends and collaborators have contributed to making the research deeper and the script stronger: Sonia Hughes and Polarbear.  Once again I have ‘the fear’ as to whether the work will come together in the ridiculously short process we have for a project of this ambition,  but I am learning that this is part of my process.  It will only drive me to make the work stronger, more real, tighter, more authentic and after all, at the end of the day, when all is said n done…it’s all about walking the line isn’t it?

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An interview with online blog magazine: Little Ghost

Have a little look. tell me what you think!

http://littleghostweb.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/interview-with-leo-kay-eating-performance-and-community/
And Some lovely photos taken by Ki Price at Battersea Arts Centre when we performed Only Wolves And Lions to forty Brazilian artists and delegates in July of this year,  as part of Rio Occupation London, in Portuguese!

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New reflections on doubt and the violent act of making decisions.

Recently I directed the Contact’s Young Actors Company in their latest performance The Third Side. A performance inspired by the riots and looting of 2011, The Trinidadian state of emergency imposed in the same summer and considerations surrounding materialism, freedom and control. I will write more on these issues but today I am writing about something that I am learning to appreciate and live with: Doubt.

I think that  good art lives with doubt and with its opposing forces constantly present.
First there is the nurturing energy in allowing the truth of doubt to be present.  The truth that we are working with a mixture of experience, intelligence, instinct and blind faith, enabling the infinite transformational possibilities which are present in authentic creative acts.

Then there’s the thrusting vision; the violent action needed to make a decision and in doing so kill all other possible directions for the work. (click here for previous post about directing Polarbears recent solo show: Old Me and reflections of the violence present and needed within the act of making decisions.)

In conversation with one of the ensemble of performers in The Third Side, they said: “you must never doubt that you are a director”, she felt that my doubt was sometimes very present within the process. I do not doubt myself as a director, but unconsciously I allow doubt to be very present within my process.  I think it is easy to interpret this doubt of whether something will work or not as doubt in the fundamental question of whether you should be in the room in the role that you are taking.

I know that my best work walks the line of constantly falling in on itself, about to crumble, about to show too much of itself, about to break the envelope that it is pushing at.  This doubt or fragility, makes the experience of being involved in the work very real for the audience/participant/performer, the work is constantly unfinished and in need of all of their commitment and authentic expression to reach the vision that I have for it.

Maybe my doubt in some way creates the space for the performers to own the work.  This is not always comfortable for me or them, but I wonder what  authentic artistic expression is comfortable for the whole of it’s creation process.  I made it very clear that this show could fail if they didn’t commit.  The result – we had a standing ovation throughout the 400 seater full house, they blew the roof off!

> Here are a compilation of the tweets sent out about the work.

“A knockout show. A triumph for CYAC and their audience. We all left shaken, awoken, together…A beautiful, unapologetic exploration of youth and community. Startling.” Lowri Evans

“A thrilling piece. Wise, funny, dangerous.” Tassos Stevens

“The best show I’ve seen in years. My art will never be the same.” Dominique Chestand, (First Wave)

“Totally blown away…Better than most professional contemporary stuff I’ve seen. Kate Bradnam

“Absolutely sick. Made me proud as a fellow Contact-er and Manc” Keisha Thompson

“INSPIRED. Powerful. Profound. Eloquent. The paint will wash away, but THAT will stay with me.” Rachel Moorhouse

“Topical, honest and full of emotion.  An absolute must see.” Tania Mahmoud

“Powerful political theatre…More please” Kully Thiarai

“Incredibly impressed and moved”. Tuheen Huda

“Impressed, moved and excited…Significant and beautiful. Jason Crouch

“Powerful, meaningful and courageous” Afreena Islam (ex-CYAC)

“The show went off and then came back in again. Differently” James (ex-CYAC)

“Fricking amazing”  Jude Pratt

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