| November 8, 2012

The doctor asked him what he was afraid of

Just what was he running from?

He said, “It’s not a fear of success nor of closeness

But of going through life feeling numb.”


I love the unknown

Because I love the unknown

He says he loves the unknown

Clem Snide


A year of working north of Dublin on developing participatory practice with a group of artists culminated in the making of a multi-art form performance to be made in two days with 90 young people at a fantastic new art centre. We set off to fly to Dublin at an ungodly hour to hook up with the core group of six artists. We left a day early so as to be fresh for the next three days, which included a day of final preparation. It seemed somewhat peculiar, but we were lodging at a guest house that went by the name of Mad Wires.

There we were, me and long-suffering, collaborating colleague, in the queue and everything was going according to plan. Well, they say that God laughs at those that make plans and God was having a mightily hearty time at our expense that day. Just as it seemed that the 4am awakening was worth it, an announcement rang loud and clear, “All Dublin flights cancelled due to fog.”

As the subject of this particular suspicion of mine involves the leftfield, coincidence, the anomalous, the tangential, synchronicity and the sideways; it feels fair to take a slight detour to tell a story about an earlier Irish excursion. This is another fog story. I had a show called The Sun Mother. It was a Romanian tale about elemental conflict between the Sun King and the Storm King.  As a youngster I had gone to and England vs Scotland football match at Wembley with a mate. We did not have tickets and managed to buy two off the touts and that is how we found ourselves as the only two Englanders in the midst of a fiercely partisan and vociferous bank of tartan. We were wedged in next to a large kilted  Scotsman with a crate of McEwen’s beer between his legs. At regular intervals he’d take the next can, peel off the tab, down the contents and draw breath to swear at the England team. England dominated the game. I think they scored six that day and our swilling terrace companion had much to swear about. His swearing had a craft to it. Each word was formed in an audible kettle-like exhalation before he played with the soft first collection of letters before the  crescendo of hitting the final hard consonant with heartfelt venom, “shshshshshshshshshshshshsshsh…iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii……T !”

Now the Storm King in my Rumanian Tale was as venomous and bitter about sunshine as that Scotsman was about that terrible defeat and so the transference of Shit to Showers and Fuck to Fog (with the full vocal display so admirably demonstrated to me in an undesirable shower of spittle) was perfect.  My Storm King was that Scotsman. And when I performed in a school in Ballinasloe on my Irish tour and the Storm King exhaled his “FfffffffffffooooGGGG!” with venomous but innocent gusto there was a collective gasp of horror in the packed hall. Hands covered mouths as young lads and lasses turned to each other and all around the hall I could hear loud whispers in thick Irish brogue, “ Oh, he said fog.”

Back in the queue and that early morning announcement at Bristol Airport and so, unlike the vast majority, we had luggage in the aircraft hold and unlike anybody else our packing involved meticulous calculations to pack a huge amount of workshop materials and outwit the rigid Ryanair baggage allowances. This meant we were near the back of the new queue that formed to get on later flights. In the end we managed to get the last available seats but not to Dublin, to Knock. Knock is on the opposite coast of Ireland to Dublin. Our hire car was at Dublin Airport. We ended up hiring a car at Knock Airport and driving to Dublin Airport to pick up our hire car before setting off to Mad Wires. We arrived at about 10pm , having begun at 4am. And the Guest House was not called Mad Wires, it was Ma Dwyers and it was on a busy thoroughfare and a security light switched on and off all night and our day of preparation was gone and I had a migraine.

The day when the young people arrived to make their show I was running on very low in the tank. As I explained to the team that although I might seem physically present, my actual existence was too thin to call it a presence and then a phone call came through to say that one of the team of six lead artists was ill and unable to be there. As the artists were working in pairs , this meant that one artist had to abandon the plans she had made with her partner and adjust to work in a different way. As support I said that of at any point in the day that that got too much I could take some of the children off her but, believe me and my migraine, I was hoping that it would not come to that.

The theme of the two days was Hidden Worlds.  Along the front of the stage we had taped a long roll of blank paper. The participants were invited to scribe their story ideas onto the paper as they interacted with the different activities and art forms on offer. By lunchtime on Day One, we had the shape of a performable narrative about a journey into hidden worlds to find the key to the imagination. In the afternoon the lone artist had too many children to hold alone and so migraine and me were called into action.  I picked up my heavy head off the floor and took a group of about ten children into the theatre foyer and bar area to work. They were animated and excited, full of ideas and I sat as still as I could manage noting down ideas and exerting a modicum of control over their popcorn imaginations.

It dawned on me that one young man had remained silent. I asked him he wanted to add anything. This began a popping chorus of “ooh I do” from the others whilst he thought about the invitation and on the evident edge of talking he stopped himself and answered my invitation with a “no”. Noticing that he had something to say but had restrained himself from speaking, I told him that I had noticed that he seemed to have something to say and if he felt like saying it at any time then we would listen; to which he answered that what he was going to say was, “…that he had nothing to say because he did not have an imagination”.  And then he added an afterthought, “Hey, that’s what the show could be about. It could be about me. It could be a quest into the hidden worlds to help me get my imagination.”  And that was exactly what that show became.

My second suspicion is that the world is highly unpredictable.

Category: Blog, Tony's Blog, Uncategorized

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Director of School of Workshop

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