The Cruellest Month

I. THE BURIAL OF THE DEAD

April is the cruellest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.

 

So April had a lot going on and in and around and under and above it was responding to Adrian’s death.

Anyway, life had to go on and first big thing to happen was making a quick one-day film with Kim Beverige. I had been asked to make a film by an arts centre in Baltimore called Centre Stage. It was a bit out of the blue as a request, but it seemed like a fun way to create some documentation for Everyone’s A Winner, Baby! and to collaborate with Kim.

Due to our schedules we only really had a day to get the whole thing filmed and edited but that gave us a very clear set of constraints for working and I knew that the other performers I was working with would be able to deliver the goods. The film follows us getting ready to go out into Glasgow to perform Everyone’s A Winner, Baby! in the context of the lead up to the Commonwealth Games. It’s a bit like a serious-mockumentary and I’m very happy with the results!

The film will be premiered in Baltimore (I don’t get to go out there, unfortunately) and then will be available online.

The  next day I travelled down to Cambridge for two weeks R&D with Get In The Back Of The Van – three women who have been commissioned to make a Live Art Community Musical for the Spill festival in Ipswich in October. I was there as a performer/collaborator along with three other artists and they asked us to come along after taking part in a weekend workshop in August in which we tried to make a queer live art version of Calamity Jane.

The first issue in the R&D was that they hadn’t been able to secure the rights to do anything with Calalmity Jane especially since Jodie Prenger will be touring the UK with her own special version of the show. So we had to settle with The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas – a much lesser-known and altogether weirder musical. In Calamity Jane the fun of performing it through a live art lens was opening up all the queer signals lying just under the surface, but Whorehouse is already a very strange and self-problematising piece. There are no real heroes, everyone’s a hypocrite, there’s no happy ending, it has very confusing messages, but it has some really great songs.

A lot of the work involved learning all the songs and the harmonies led by a real bona fide musical theatre MD and that was really a pleasure to go to work just to sing songs. And then we would try out scenes playing various characters in an attempt to discover what a live art community musical might be. Would there be cameos from the stars of the UK live art scene? Would it end up with the whole audience on stage? Was this the perfect community engagement project for the people of Ipswich or would it be either patronising or too complicated to create a good show from such a process.

Throughout, the Van girls led the development with Hester as director giving the process the most shape. It was really wonderful to just have to turn up and find ways to follow the instructions each day without having to take the responsibility of coming up with the answers. I was really impressed with their rigour and their willingness to try everything out. So if an idea came up we would give it a go and often the results were not what we had expected.

I was also really impressed/shocked by how hard they work to keep track of all their projects. Most lunch times they would have a meeting together, or a meeting with producers to try to get more financial support for the project. Then in the evenings they would be rehearsing the show they performed in the first week of the R&D, working on admin, going through applications for an artist mentorship scheme they were running, and planning for the rest of their tour. It just hammers home how much work you need to do to be able to keep up with your own potential once you start to get support.

After Cambridge, I had two days dressing up as a Victorian lady cyclist and leading a bicycle parade around the Riverside museum which was fun.

Then was the almighty Buzzcut festival. I was asked to help out an artist, Rachel Mars, with her piece called Spirit of Envy. So I had to arrange a piece for a small choir which was fun, but took a bit more effort on my part than I had expected! But it went well and I think people enjoyed it.

I was also launching my new birds project by sharing the costumes made by my new collaborator Kirsty and speaking to people about the project. This has given me some good insights into how to work with the dressing up part of the project.

Mostly Buzzcut was just great for meeting with the live art community of the UK as a lot of artists came up from London and Brighton and Bristol to be part of the festival, either performing or just watching and participating. It was a very inspiring weekend and I felt really excited to be part of it.

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