What was the inspiration for this performance?
Being rejected from loads of funding and commissioning opportunities and feeling like I didn't know what my place was anymore as an artist making live performance. Coupled with this experience was the rise in more marginalised voices being given more and more opportunities in live performance (as they absolutely should) and me having deep anxious questions about my legitimacy as a straight white man making autobiographical performance, feeling like I have to battle away my feelings of wanting to disappear and the guilt I carry about taking up space.
Feeling quite defeated, I thought I would try one last time to find a healthy way to explore the ways in which a larger male community takes up space in the context of live performance/theatre, and to see if I can find a place for myself within that community.
Is theatre still a good space for the public discussion of ideas?
I think so. But it's all about whose discussion it is, who is making the provocation for the discussion, what does having said discussion enable in the wider world. I think we are living in an acutely active time for making live performance, as I am witnessing a real channelling of marginalised issues into the public realm, and how that is being supported by people who make live performance.
How did you become interested in making performance?
First of all it was all ego and showing off. Then it was about questioning a deeper politic of the live body in live space in front of an audience. Then it was about the self being witnessed by spectator and the powerfully affirming experience of that. Then it was about enabling that experience for a larger number of people within my own political dramaturgy as a western white boy and giving space for other. Then I found myself devoid of ambition when it came to making performance and now I am here, making Men & Space. YIKES.
Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
Yeah. This is the first participatory professional work I have made. The work includes 16 men from Glasgow and I really just had to work with what was most alive in front of me in the rehearsal room, rather than my usual way of working which is about fantasising about what the work could be, and making stuff borne from my own personal desires for the work alone.
Here the process is immediate, and responsive and facilitative to whatever anyone brings into the room in the moment of making. Here I feel like on one hand I have no control about what this could be, but on the other entirely controlling about how it gets presented. Because the weight of responsibility has also multiplied by 16, the process also feels really tender and I think this has affected the work, which is slow, and static in many ways.
What do you hope that the audience will experience?
I hope that they experience an open space of the theatre around the performers, to allow the audience to project onto the male bodies in the work the baggage that they carry about men in action, or men taking up space.
I will also be projecting some heavy signifiers onto the male body in the space through the directing of the work, concerning typical or expected impressions of 'men' which I think are upheld widely in the society I am part of.
I hope that this creates a sense of confusion about how we see men, which in itself I think is quite a tense way through the presentation of this work because I feel like I have already come upon lots of criticism about whether or not the theatre space is one that should continue to be occupied by men at a time of such felt social change. I am nervous about my intentions, however in the collaborative space of being with these men, there is definitely a really strong sense of a need to sort through and muddle through the difficulty of being a man now as well and the fall-out that we also experience as a result of our own oppressive behaviours. I am reminded of a Germaine Greer quote here from 1971, '...that men have been debauched by their own tyranny, and degraded by it and confused by it, almost as much as the people they have tyranised over.'
What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
Questions about the material that highlights the presence of both the audience and the performers, that makes clear the enquiry of (audiences observing) men and space. As this is so early on in the process of making, I actually haven't got to an advanced stage of thinking about this. We have only been working together for 6 evening sessions and that is all we will have time for before we share our material. It really is an experiment.