Last weekend I took myself off to West Wales for two days for the really lovely Machynlleth Festival - packed full of brilliant comedy and theatre. I gorged myself on, mainly women, doing brilliant things, being funny, thought provoking, making me cry, think and feel.
Some were finished, polished products previously played in front of countless audiences and honed each time, others were at a very different stage. I saw a number of work in progresses. Unfinished, unwritten and not ready. Standing before a packed audience with some scribbled notes, some ideas and working through an act would fill me with absolute dread - and some of the comedians expressed that thought as well. Yet, they got up, continued when they stumbled and proved that we rarely feel things are ever ready to share. But only through that sharing can we work on what we do and start to build something which has the potential to be great.
So it makes sense that this week's Before I Was Ready features a performer. I've known Catriona James for quite a few years now, you can generally find her being brilliant performing cabaret with Mary Bijou and she is starting to step out on her own. Here she writes about her first solo show.
Pic credit: Grace Gelder
I trained as an actor, and only in the last few years has that identity broadened. Now, perhaps theatre artist is more accurate, and sometimes dancer, and more recently solo artist. I made my first solo show Worse Things Happen earlier this year - a mix of autobiographical storytelling and dance, exploring my journey with depression and mental health stigma. I was trying out some material related to the show last year, and someone asked me how long I had been working on it. I told him 15 months at least. 'Why has it taken you so long?,' was his response, and that made me laugh and then I paused to think. Is that a long time to explore an idea? I mean, partly the reason is that I don’t live in a magical utopia where I can exist rent-free and all my food grows in the backyard. It was at least another 4 months after that conversation before I was able to get into a room and devote a few weeks solely to creating the show. And even then it didn’t feel finished - I was happy to show it to people and to put it in front of a paying audience, but I don’t think of it as complete. Perhaps all performance work is only ever at various stages of readiness. I don’t see how I could ever think of piece for performance as finished, especially something as personal as an autobiographical show. I hope to perform the piece again later this year, and I’ll be a different person by then, in small but possibly significant ways. And by next year, when I hope to tour, I will have changed again. Eventually I presume it will come to a point where the material I created - so intensely personal and permeated with me - will seem… not irrelevant, but of a different time. A different identity. And then I’ll be ready to move on to the next project. Or perhaps not?
Comments will be approved before showing up.