Getting ready to show Concerto at Lincoln Performing Arts Centre, I find myself in preparation mode. Ordering 1000 leaves, a black fan, three piano stools, two doctors’ coats and finding a way to turn the stage of the LPAC into an orchestra pit. At the same time, I have been getting ready to perform Sucking Stones at Nottingham Contemporary this week. Washing stones, learning text, finding a greatcoat with enough pockets to store the stones. At the same time, I am preparing to dust off The man who flew into space from his apartment and take it to Plymouth for one last voyage into the unknown before the tour ends. At the same time, I am on research leave from the University of Lincoln, exploring the ways in which my recent projects might be turned into writing for publication. At the same time, I am blogging.
I interviewed a conductor yesterday, Dr Paul Jenkins at the University of Leicester. He told me that when he is getting ready to conduct he is always distracted by practicalities – how many music stands he has, what is missing, what he hasn’t done – and it is not until he lifts his baton that he is really ready to ‘get into character’ as the conductor. I also interviewed a musician, Hester Claridge, who plays the double bass and the violin. She told me about waiting to play and how it feels like ‘running upstairs and missing the top step’. That feeling you have before going onstage, before playing, before performing. That leap into the unknown, like The man who flew into space from his apartment. I found this photo of me getting ready before Concerto in Leicester and I know I was not thinking about the show when it was taken. I am thinking about how many music stands we have, what is missing, what I haven’t done…
Former Spice Girl, Geri Halliwell once said, ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ and I have to say I agree with her. The challenge is to find a way to make the practicalities, the music stands, the leaves, the doctors coats, part of the creative process, and the writing and devising one of the practicalities. I am multi-tasking, doing everything at once and hoping to have prepared for everything – even failure. As Matthew Goulish, co-founder of Goat Island said: ‘If you want to study a system, first look at how it fails’. We might follow Samuel Beckett’s instruction here: ‘Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’ This echoes the sentiments of directors, Alan Lyddiard and Alison Andrews, who suggest in Dramaturgy: A User’s Guide, that their ‘… thinking and dramaturgy is connected to the so-called right to fail. We walk a tightrope…’. They continue that: ‘The possibility we could plummet is not really part of the show. Of course, it’s theatre, not circus. Our tightrope is metaphorical – as is the safety net. Still the trick is not to fall off’.
I am trying not to fall off. And at least if I do, my bow tie will stay on.
Image: Julian Hughes