Tag Archives: performance

All Good Things

The piano tinkled one last time as a man mountain of hugs closed the final show. A stream of tears became a Mexican tidal wave that overtook us all. Grown men sobbing publicly without fear or thought to what any of the audience may think. It was real, for all of us.

We had worked with each other, for each other, we loved and laughed, we embraced as we grafted and crafted something special. We hoped that it was impactful whilst entertaining. For many of the 600 or so that came, this was essential viewing.  A conversation on masculinity and mental health has well and truly been started, how far could it go?

When the last drop of celebratory beers had been drunk, and the last of our multiple hugs had finished, each of us returned home to face the reality of life outside the bubble of a performance. I didn’t know what to do with myself, I didn’t know how to feel. For all my emotional intelligence and self-awareness I was numb. I knew I’d grown but I didn’t know how. I was exhausted and fragile yet strengthened by the experience.

As I write this, I don’t know how I’ve grown personally, maybe I’ve grown as an artist. I remember the first performances where I messed up lines but got through my solo in the show. That started an incredible mental battle that I had to overcome. Slow down so that every line can have the impact you want it to, was the message from the directors.   I duly started my piece in 1st gear rather than 3rd and found a groove that allowed me to shine. Word perfect and performances 3 – 5 got better each time. Some said they saw me grow through each one.

Some have said they’ve learned a lot from me, again I don’t know what. So I ask myself what is the legacy of Man Up for me? Perhaps it’s relationships.

Throughout my life, I didn’t have many deep connections with the males, one every blue moon at best. The connections I had were generally social and rarely along meaningful lines. Ultimately they’d fizzle and I’d be left to fend for myself. As the weeks pass, I intend to build even deeper personal connections with the family or UpMen as we called ourselves. If brotherly love must continue, being intentional is necessary.

“Yes I’m a mess but I’m blessed to be stuck with you…”

Thank you, Paul & Clare, for your direction and process of co-creation, thank you Up Men for your love for this overthinking wordsmith. We have redefined the words Man Up in a positive way. Let’s build.

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Filed under Just Living

Gremlins and molehills

My home is the stage, or so I thought. Nobody wants to hear me, besides, I’m not allowed to say what I think.

This was me, aged 21 after discovering that performance poetry was the one place where I couldn’t be shot down. The one place where I wasn’t being told that I wasn’t good enough. The one place I wasn’t compared to someone my family or peers knew. The only place where I could speak my mind and people had to listen.

The stage is my home, I don’t get nervous, I come alive when I’m centre stage. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Having written and rewritten my piece for Man Up, my confidence level was always around 8 – 10 on any given day in practice mode. I’ll be just fine for the shows, do what I gotta do.

Somehow the closer I got to the shows, an old gremlin spoke up and asked, “What if I mess up?” Fear of failure, fear of not meeting expectations, fear of letting others down had all shackled me for most of my years. Despite my confidence in my ability to deliver, it caused me to practice even harder right up to the last minutes before I was to step into the limelight.

Despite controlled recovery from a few stumbles, I beat myself up for the rest of the first show. I told myself it was awful, that my part was the weakest out of the solos. I told myself that the crowd didn’t want to hear me talk about race and masculinity, they came for the stories from people like them. They didn’t want someone to rhyme at them with all those hand motions. I told myself a lot of things. Somehow the rest of the cast didn’t see it like I did. They told me they saw me come alive, they heard my passion, they told me they had to remember to hold their applause.

I arrive at the mid-point of a series of performances, so far two nights, two sold-out shows. I was better this time, not perfect but better in the second show. Self-awareness can be destructive at times, yet with 3 shows to go, I realise the importance of embracing the bright. Take the microphone away from the gremlin and make your voice count in a good way.

I’ve got two shows in one evening before the final performance a day later. What matters most? The simple truth is my story is being heard in a way that only I can tell it. At some point I’ll tell it again without the production values, I might even give you the extended version. Simple truths about the best of what I’m doing matter more than amplifying minor faults. Knowing the mountains from molehills will take you far.

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Filed under Non Poetic Blogs

On Style and Substance in Performed Poetry: A response

“My Style married my Substance, now they’re living Harmony”

I have written poetry for many years, I hated poetry in school for one reason – how it sounded. There were so many boxes to tick for it to be supposedly qualified as a poem and when people read it aloud, there was no expression. If people are writing to express themselves, joyfully or painfully I wondered where the feeling was. Hence I loved the stylings of rap, the flow, how things fit together with a rhythm. I was never allowed to have it in the house growing up but I found ways to get a fix.

I truly understand there are many poems that have a literary edge. Poets that still prefer to be in a book than heard and there is nothing wrong at all with that. I simply believe that the message is as important as the delivery. I love to sing, I don’t do it particularly well yet simple words delivered well can have a profound impact. Consider the singer Adele and her song “Someone like you”, if her inflection on that song was nowhere to be found, I don’t believe it would be as highly rated as it is. In the last four weeks I have listened to more than I want to, from cover versions to people humming it at work. The presentation of the lyrics has made them memorable as much as the feeling behind them.

If you take away the inflection then as refreshing as that glass of water may be, your taste buds may still be asking for that juice or tea. As humans we inflect in our actions. We laugh and cry, news readers have a tone which will vary according to the nature of it. Teachers, parents, actors especially are tasked to convey the substance of what they’re presenting to us.

The substance whether farcical or sombre will always have to be there when writing yet you cannot detach one from the other. The moment you open your mouth to bring one of these babies to life, the onus is on you to make your voice heard and your piece stick. There are always going to be preferences yet for the sake of attention spans, either the message or the presentation need to connect. The greatest of those practicing any spoken art form marry the two excellently. Personally, if you’re telling me you got hit by 5 tonne truck and got proposed to by the driver – I want to hear it and feel it. There is no exclusion zone for style not matter how well researched and written your piece is. The moment you add any kind of structure to your writing, no matter how loose it is – you are styling it. The delivery does not simply apply to performance, you still have to make those words jump off the page for you and whoever else reads it.

“My style married my substance and now they livin in harmony
But any substance can be abused
Especially when the style is so seductive the substance consider leaving you”

Talib Kweli ~ Self Savior ~ Gutter Rainbows


Filed under Non Poetic Blogs