Monday, March 07, 2016

throat belly foot

I performed a work-in-progress of my play throat belly foot last Tuesday, along with my friend and collaborator Kate Glavey, the figure beneath the sheet (I didn't formally name the characters, but in my head the figure was 'f' and the other was 'a'). The play came about during a month-long residency at A Little Room, which is a theatre development project run in Waterford city and housed in the Garter Lane Arts Centre.
I went into the residency with barely a full skeleton of an idea. Most of it was jettisoned about halfway through when I finally figured out what was making me uncomfortable. Here am I, an earnest young white male given time and space to talk about whatever he wants (himself) and have an audience at the end of it listen to whatever it was he said, and tell him what they thought of it. I knew that I didn't feel right using the opportunity that way, so decided to use the space to educate and expose myself to other voices and experiences and opinions, ideas and fears. Which to be fair mostly manifested in what I read and consumed through books, movies and the internet; but I spend so much time with those things anyway they seemed valid points of references, particularly for the shut-in. I spoke to friends about my ideas/aims, dithered and worried and chewed on everything, and worried about worrying and so on. I'm reluctant to share publicly (because haha so many will read this) what the whole thing is actually about partly because I suppose I'm still not fully confident in my intentions (or, confident in making them known). But also


the thing is, in the feedback session after the performance there were a few completely unexpected interpretations, and I got a kick out of what other people were seeing in it, and I don't want to risk missing out on those, if and when I develop the play further. The audience picked up on many things unintended - though Kate pointed out after that nobody focused on many of the (what seemed to us) major points/clues of the play, such as f's painted red feet (mirrored by a's red socks); the name of the play and its significance, ditto the tagline "a play about bodies" and its significance. One person suggested that f was a's subconscious, which I realised was not incorrect, though it wasn't my intention. I immediately thought of Brian Friel's Philadelphia Here I Come, which is one of the few plays I have seen (my Leaving Cert class studied it). Ith was not the first time over the course of the residency it had shown itself, and its public/private persona mechanic.

The idea of someone doing an awkward, not-exactly-funny stand up routine was an element that was there from the start (this is the audio piece I sent in with the residency application). When the application was successful I immediately thought "fuck! now I have to do a stand up routine". I put it off at first, tried to come up with something else. Thought about smearing everything in electronics and noise, hiding my voice and heart behind a cascade of amp feedback and hiss. But all the alternatives felt dishonest at that point; the original idea would not be excised.


Eventually words started appearing from whatever fog, and the routine pretty much coalesced over the course of one afternoon of writing. Rehearsing it for the first time with Kate was weird. We've acted together plenty of times at this point with Inis Weird, but this time was so different. For me, it was hard first of all just sharing these words. But Kate was so supportive and constructive and open that it eventually became a fluid and harmonious thing; the actual performance itself went off so smoothly. Neither of us had performed in a play before; we have both as musicians, but not for a few years. So in the days leading up to the play the stomach cramps grew intensity and the eyes glazing and the fingers were jolt jolt. All the days due to arrive after the performance ceased to yet exist and there was only Tuesday. No coffee! We'll give it up. The day before was worst for me actually. I barely ate the whole day. But the day of was better. The performance was probably the smoothest we'd done (we must have gone through it half a dozen that day), though the point right before I first utter, the pen would not go in the cap my hands shook. I looked for that in the video, but it's invisible. Kate also; knees shaking all the way through, but you wouldn't know. The relief after, it was worth it. The strange comedown the day after, a feeling of back to reality and oh right, that stuff. What now? Stave this off? No more microphones, the voice goes back into the head and recedes downward.
Again? Again.