Image by Darrel Berry
I’m currently on research time at Scottee & Friends, I’m spending the majority of the next three months away from running and delivering projects and focusing on what my company's output over the next three-five years will look like.
Class is the last of the solo, autobiography works I want to make. I want to move on from making stuff about my wounds and find new ways of talking about the mucky stuff that leave me less injured.
My thinking is moving toward a more collective, collaborative approach. Something I really loved and learnt through making Fat Blokes is I think my skills are in helping folk find ways we can tell difficult stories that jolt us into action.
Doing all this thinking and writing means I’m spending a lot of time reflecting on the way I’ve made work so far, my approach and what I’ve learnt. Last week at a conference in Ghent with a bunch of circus makers pondering how to approach ‘the real’ in their work I started to think about all the brilliant things and methods I’d learnt from makers like Arti Prashar, Lois Weaver, Nando Messias, Neil Bartlett, Chris Goode, Sam Curtis Lyndsay and Ursula Martinez - their approach, their route into making people clap and cry and think.
Next month I’m teaching a bunch of artists how I make. I’m now thinking about my approach and how I put into words the thought behind it and I thought it might be a useful thing to share.
There are loads of books people will tell you to read, loads of workshops they’ll want you to attend, you could spend thousands learning it and relearning it but I haven’t read many books or done many workshops, nor did I do that university thing and I think I’m doing alright at getting the point across.
I’ve seen a lot of stuff though and from my observations I think autobiographical largely makers find themselves in either of three camps - thinkers, feelers and if you’re lucky, thinker feelers (Selina Thompson is a great example of this). Regardless of where you sit in this there should be a common goal for work I think does something - the truth.
There’s lots of different versions of the truth that we play with and I think, for me, the magic lives in just one of them.
This is the story we’re prepared to tell - sometimes for safety, sometimes for liability but usually because this is the kinder truth to tell. It’s a truth that is edited and often feels benign, a bit meh, a little underwhelming because it leads us nowhere with no reason to tell the story except maybe vanity. The truth without reason, politics or stance. It's just “this happened…”
The Performed Truth
This is the story we’re prepared to tell that isn’t the full account of what happened but goes further than the truth. This truth is a bit forced, a bit unsure of itself - like a regional tour of Les Mis, lots of cheese, not enough ham. Its self conscious, full of bias that makes us believe in the subjects vulnerability without acknowledging any of their own downfalls, their implications, their reasoning. It's about sympathy. Its “this happened to ME, can you believe it...”
The Beyond Truth
This is the story we’re prepared to tell, one that is uncomfortable, that is a full account, no hidden truths to save face or make yourself look like the hero of the story. A story that might leave the audience wondering if they like you, what they should do with all the information you have given them and how each of us are complicit in that truth. It’s ugly, takes a lot of thinking about, a lot of care for you and the audience but is ultimately, I think, the truth is worth telling.
I’ve always tried to make shows like The Worst of Scottee, Bravado and Class from that position. Who knows if I’ve managed to do that, but thats been how I’ve put pen to paper.
OK, that's enough thinking for now. Don’t want you to think I’m academic or sommat.