Updated: Apr 11, 2019
Two nights ago, after the final performance of Bleach at The Etcetera Theatre, a group of men who’d seen the show came up to me in the bar, shook my hand and congratulated me on the show. This is the culminating moment that comes, but is not guaranteed, after many months of hard work. Moments like this are very much appreciated but I can’t let myself enjoy it… not just yet.
I’d like to go back a bit. Since we’ve only just started blogging I think it would be good to go back through the process of creating Bleach and what it means that I’ve made it this far… and perhaps why I can’t just bloody enjoy it now I’m here!
So writing a one man show has never really been on my list of things to do and performing one has been closer to making it onto a list of things to avoid than actively seek out. But for some reason last year, the idea for Bleach came to me and I started writing. With really no particular thought about what might happen to it and that one day I might actually have to learn the thing.
I say ‘the idea came to me’ and ‘started writing’ as if it all happened very easily… I can assure you this isn’t the case. I knew that I wanted to do something about a rent boy and possibly about the bad thing that happens (don’t want to spoil anything for future audiences)… but past that I really had nothing. No context, no reason, no structure. I must have started writing this play about four times before it actually turned into anything. Originally, the main event, the part where everything switches, was going to be at the very end of the play. But after a long time it finally clicked that this didn’t really allow anything of relevance to happen in the rest of the show. I thought that moment was the play, but luckily came to realise that it was how that moment affects everything else that’s the important part.
I was never really sure how the show would come across when I was writing it. I didn’t want that shocking part of it to be the show. I wanted it to be about more than that. About something more relatable… I hope that comes across. For me, it’s really a play about growing up and trying to make something of yourself. Trying to fit into everyone’s facebook lives and show you’re doing alright. The big moment in the show is really just a catalyst for Tyler to stop ignoring just how much he not coping.
But that’s probably enough about the writing process… best leave something for people who haven’t seen the show.
Once it was written, I actually felt pretty good about it. Not since ‘Lost & Found’ have I written something that I’ve been so proud of and really felt stood comfortably on its own as just a piece of writing. So now comes the part where I should really do it… actually stand up and perform a one man show. Shit.
I applied for the Lewisham Fringe and booked in my first performance date. Everything up to now was pretty chilled but now I had a date and this was scary. Now it was actually going to happen and I actually had to learn 17 pages of words by heart! Oh Dear.
In my head, I felt like if I could do this I could do anything. I imagined the feeling of strength I’d have taking the bow at the end of the show having actually done it. Maybe I’d cry. None of this happens of course… six months ago it seemed like the possibility of this achievement was amazing but as you get closer this fades and unfortunately is totally gone by the time you make it through the show. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very proud of this show. But I think it’s rather the nature of the beast with performing. You can never do the perfect show, which in many ways is amazing but it also means you never really get to win. You just go hunting for the next fix. The next booking, the next show, the next review. This is why I can’t quite enjoy being congratulated in the bar… not at all because I don’t appreciate it, but because I’m not sure If I deserve it just yet. Performers will probably understand this perfectly… everyone else might just think I sound like a very sad soul. I’m not. I promise.
But this show is teaching me a lot. About what I can do and what I can’t. I can definitely do more than I thought. I’m also learning more about an audience’s experience of the show. Because the focus is so heavily on me… well, entirely on me actually… I’m learning that the show they see is not the same as the show I feel. They can’t hear the craziness going on in my head, each tiny slip that I’m not stood in quite the right place.
So I’m going to try and allow myself to lap up all the good things that come with this show. Because people seem to like it. Even without knowing about all the months of writing, learning lines, going to the gym, rehearsing, designing the set, editing the music, making the poster, marketing, painting a load of shit white... Oh, and the joy that is festival applications.
But now I know I can walk into a room with nothing and tell a story and people will listen. People might even come up to me afterwards and tell me how much they enjoyed listening… and that’s pretty cool… because I did that. That’s mine.