I have a friend called Dave. He is a playwright. A little while ago I had the seed of an idea for a play, but unlike Dave, I lack the requisite skills in the creative structured translation of thought to page. So, having wanted to collaborate with each other for a while on a creative project, together we mulled over the emerging essence of the idea on a long walk around the Goyt Valley early in 2016. I do find that after about two hours on a walk, my mind really gets to work on the knotty problem of the day, sometimes without my knowing. I’m sure it has something to do with the space, and the quiet padding of forwards motion – personal horizons, literal and perceptual are expanded. I’ve reflected upon this in a previous post, bringing Czikszentmihalyi’s notion of optimal experience, known as flow, into the discussion….
Anyway, digressions, digressions. The result of the walk and then Dave’s talent at translating and expanding upon our joint, amble-centric thinking was a brand new piece of writing: Waiting Room. For reasons which will shortly become apparent, I won’t go into too much detail about the play here and now. However, in the manner of what is hopefully a tempting teaser (again for reasons which will shortly become apparent – stay with me folks) I can tell you that the play is a monologue and is set on a train platform. The circumstances of the central character – Thomas, are frighteningly similar to some of my own personal details. And that’s all you’re getting for now. Unfair? Yes. Necessary? Of course – nothing is done without reason…
So, the Waiting Room was, with a shockingly small rehearsal period (2 days in my dining room), then taken to the Buxton Fringe in 2016. (incidentally, its apparently the 3rd largest Fringe in the UK after Edinburgh and Brighton) The piece was premiered for a short run in a lovely little performance space in the top room of the Green Man Gallery and played to sold-out houses (very small houses – maisonettes, really) on each performance. And, despite my occasional departures from the exact words of the script, (causing Dave to have kittens as he was operating the sound) it went well; 5 star reviews; yours truly was nominated in the Fringe awards for Best Actor, and the piece itself won Best Theatre Production. Which was nice, because Dave and I were just testing it out. You can see a review from the 2016 Buxton Fringe performances here.
So then we thought about putting it on again, just to see if the friendly Buxton audience were simply being nice. (Buxton is a nice place). We took it for two nights to the Kings Arms at Salford – a fantastically active and welcoming fringe venue (with good ale, which is always a bonus). Again, a good reception and some more positive reviews. I actually stuck to the script most of the time (Dave no longer had kittens midway through the performance) and said efforts were rewarded; a nomination for Best Performer in a Fringe Show in the 2017 Manchester Theatre Awards. I have to go to Home in March for a spangly do. I expect there may be canapés and fizzy stuff. I’m genuinely chuffed.
But wait, there’s yet more, folks; the piece has been a welcome opportunity for me to get back to performance and to practice as research. After I finished the PhD (2014) the thought of writing, or researching anything was a feeling akin to having nails dragged down a blackboard, or being tied to a chair and being made to watch the Sound of Music twice; essentially unpalatable. However, after a couple of obligatory articles/ pieces from my PhD, this work has facilitated a return to research. It’s been such fun. And here comes the reason for the prior holding back of detail – Waiting Room is now scheduled for a single night of performance at the University of Salford’s very own New Adelphi Theatre on March 2nd 2017. Yippee and Hurrah.
This performance will be the icing on the cake for me. It’s the proverbial icing for several reasons; it allows me, as a senior leader of the university, to present my research as practice to colleagues and students and do so in a manner that runs the risk of me going wrong in public – keeping me on my toes (no pressure Sam – even though at the time of writing it’s a month away, the sense of personal/ reputational risk is already a palpable presence in my stomach when I think about it). It also allows me to share a different side of my working practice with interested parties at our university, and finally and best of all, I get to a chance to personally contribute to embedding research within student learning journeys – something I’m wanting academic colleagues to routinely do as part of our ‘ICZ ready’ curriculum; In the case of Waiting Room there’s a post show talk for students, and the performance has been woven into the curriculum diet of some undergraduate performance programmes as well as having given rise to a small number of live briefs.
After this, I’ll be working with students to turn it into a radio play and a film, (more live briefs) then there’s a bit of research which, bouncing off themes explored in my PhD, reflects on the nature of optimal states of being for the performer across all three mediums.
Anyhow… In the meantime, I’m excited about March 2nd. And it would be fantastic to see lots of you there, you lovely readers, you. So here’s the shameless plug; Waiting Room March 2nd, New Adelphi Theatre, University of Salford. MIMO. It lasts about an hour, meaning you can fit in a glass of wine and also be home at a respectable time on a School Night. Best of all, you can get your tickets here.
See you next week.