Sunday, 21 May 2017

Bastard Dramaturgy: Simon Jay @ N16

What was the inspiration for this performance?
I was asked to write a book that was published last year; which was a memoir about growing up gay, developing mental health problems and how I recovered from a severe breakdown using my love for creativity. It was a bestseller on Amazon, it opened a dialogue with various communities. I read the book at RVT, KuBar, SOAS, Durham University LGBT society - and I found that engagement worked best to get the message of the book out there. 

I've always loved 'evening with...' or 'audience with...' type shows of yesteryear, there are some great anecdotal ones like Quentin Crisps, where he shares the secret of happiness or Kenneth Williams' stories and songs beautifully presented - I guess I've mixed that in with a bit of David Hoyle and industrial soundscapes - go figure ;) 

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

Definitely; live shows are now a luxury for many people - sitting in audiences, especially when there are Q and As - I try to make my shows as interactive as possible. 

How did you become interested in making performance?

I'm a very anxious person, the only time I feel comfortable is being on stage; I did a lot of performance at school, assemblies and like, and it developed out of that. Since then I realise it's a great way to bring people together too. 

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
I've taken elements from the book; the anecdotal comic style and the serious points and adapted them for the stage. The show is all new material; I focus a lot on what's happened since the book, and where it's taken me. I don't want it to be a dull 'reading' or anything like that. I want it to be a theatrical show - there's a lot of stagecraft, costume and sound in it - it is its own beast, and accessible for someone who hasn't read the book or may not even want to. 

Does the show fit with your usual productions?
I think it's unique, it's the first time I'm playing myself, usually I try and play people a million miles from who I am; Donald Trump, a ninety year old woman etc. This time I'm playing a 29 year old gay guy having a gender identity crisis - I doubt it'll be a stretch. I want to try new techniques I haven't in previous productions, there is a lot of scope for experimentation with this story.
What do you hope that the audience will experience?
That you can talk about serious and uncomfortable issues; suicide attempts, gay hate crimes, Katie Hopkins - in an original and entertaining way - it'll be funny but sobering, to the point but not preachy. By the end I want the audience to be comfortable enough to ask anything or share anything about sexuality, mental health or being creative. 

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

It's all about creating a safe space, once people realise you're not there to humiliate them or make them think a certain way, that you're genuinely there to entertain them and engage with them they open up like Venus fly-traps. 

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