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Dreaming of performing – what a performance

I call this blog ‘Mind Bursts’ for a reason.

A decade ago, curating thoughts and ideas and putting them online to share and simply to store it struck me that I was simply assembling things that had ‘gone ping’ in my brain. There are few greater such moments that a vivid dream … however vacuous, passing and potentially ephemeral they may be.

After many years of getting nowhere, in my late twenties, at a guess, perhaps early thirties, I go to three auditions and am quickly offered three parts: a musica, a play and a film: all require singing, each is a ‘breakthrough’ role and in the case of the film, as the female director who ‘discovered me’ tells me ‘is worth £35,000’ for the first weekend alone. This person offers the suggestion that I get an agent and manager, especially when I let slip that I have a major theatre piece to consider too. It is the producers of this piece who ‘take me in hand’ running me around in a frenetic whirl of introductions before making it to a read through. It is here that a crack begins to appear, not least I haven’t resolved that fact that I can only do one of these productions, but everyone at the read through smokes and for health reasons, whoever well managed my asthma, I don’t want to say. I try to talk this through with the director thinking that maybe we’d take the read through outside, or people would not smoke, but instead she offers me the remains of her joint – which at first I refuse. I then take it, pleasing her, and becoming relaxed, light headed and more accepting of the circumstances. I wake as a form of running away, as I know the only solution is to leave. I wake and leave the dream world knowing that wanting it all I will get none of it.

It is years since I cared to work with a dream, but they are a ‘mind burst’ of the purest form given that they are the creation of the subconscious. I have a way to work these through as a dream never means what it appears to be. They rarely even have narrative form, but are an expression of immediate feelings, sensations, experiences and thoughts. I want to be after watching two contrasting films of ‘Great Expectations’ – the moody, memorable black and white version of David Lean and the moodless, forgettable, muddy, messy and forgettable recent version by Mike Newell: wrong cast, wrong settings, wrong approach, wrong music, lack of tone, pace or mood. Dreadful script, clumsy acting, misdirected in the purest sense of the word. Had that anything to do with my dreamworld?

“Nights through dreams tell the myths forgotten by the day.” — C.G. Jung (Memories, Dreams, Reflections)

1: Who are you in the dream?

Still me. Though single. ‘Unsettled in London’ – so in a job, but not following my heart. At a guess 28 … and between relationships or floating away from yet another failing one.

2: Who are you with in the dream?

Alone, but quickly befriended, or adopted by each director in turn for the productions I’ve auditioned for: a musical, a film and a play. I think. Or two films and a musical? Does it matter! All my age, a male director, then two female.

3: What details stand out?

Being in a theatre in the morning when there are no members of the public about: the wonder of that and being behind the scenes and stepping away from the throng of a busy city street.

4: What do you feel about these details?

Nostalgia for involvement in theatre performing in my late teens and early twenties.

5: What are the various actions in the dream?

Attending auditions, or even turning up to hear the result of an audition and in each case, most unexpectedly, being the perfect person for the role. All things being equal it appeared to be my singing voice that the wanted – that clinched it.

6: How are you acting and behaving in this dream?

Bemused, enthralled and caught up in each director’s enthusiasm for their production.

7: What relation does this dream have to your personality?

Hankering after performance. A love for ‘doing’ theatre and play acting, rather than the watching of it. i.e. behind the scenes, in dressing rooms, going through read throughs and rehearsals, the other worldliness of it … the thrill and relief of being able to ‘join’ this merry throng of creators. The joy of being part of a big team under professional direction.

8: What does the dream want from you?

To deliver.

9: What are the various feelings in this dream?

Thrilled. But knowing, if the answer isn’t obvious, that I will have to let two people down. I want to go with the film. Each director is likeable. I know none of them. I prefer the film director. Like a young Virginia Makenner. Very practical, persuasive and supportive. She is the only one who suggests and wants me to get an agent or manager involved to bother with my life so I can concentrate on the part. I ask, as if I can’t quite believe it, if there are other skills they need that I don’t have such as dancing or tap dancing even? She laughs. It is very reassuring: I am what and who she wants.

10: What relation does this dream have to what is happening right now in your life?

For a period life really was a series of auditions – both for parts in plays and musicals, and job interviews. You do anything creative and there comes a time, whether as a singer, performer, artist, writer … or director that you have to be interviewed, show you work and even perform. I hanker after it still. Probably because I so loved the early days of a production and the natural progression to the first night … in this respect far preferring theatre to filmmaking which is very bitty, and for an actor involves a good deal of sitting around, the real ‘action’ being behind and around the camera.

11: Why did you need this dream?

A reminder that all forms of writing are potentially a blueprint to a performance of some kind? The joy of thinking about casting choices made when you compare how the same story is told.

12: Why have you had this dream right now?

Much of my time is spent thinking about the performance of a fictional character and the need for him to be taken up and loved by others. I suppose a fictional character, unlike a real one, could appear in the play, musical and film all at the same time as he can after all be played by anyone. It is refreshing, if not disconcerting, to have a dream as if I were 25 years younger – yet I feel that ‘things’ are as possible now as they have ever been. Though perhaps I am reminded that ultimately isolation is not my desire.

13: What relation does this dream have to something in your future?

It is about acceptance and recognition, even a kind of adulation and ‘must have’ desire in a team of creatives. I empathise with that moment an actor is courted and slowly embraced by a ‘company’ – it is a courtship. I know that my own mistake is or always has been, to try and have or do all three .. that I can never be happy with the decision I make, and that compromising, or leading others on without being realistic is a mistake. Maybe I need to have that agent making some decisions for me if situations like this are to come about, let alone if I am to settle, succeed and thrive.

14: What questions arise because of this dream work?

At some point the ‘art’ becomes bigger than you. Whilst an actor is a corporeal expression of a role, the role is bigger than them. Other actors can and would be found. You can enjoy the ride. It needs others to carry the tune, or to take up the story and to fuel it in the way they see fit?

15: Who or what is the adversary in the dream?

Me. Letting a problem develop. I cannot do all three. It is chance that on the same day I am offered three parts. It is very clear I cannot do all three. The fact that I share my dilemma with the film director is a kind of cry for help that she answers by saying that there are professionals to turn to. I know though that I don’t need to a professional to tell me I want to do the film, and not the play or musical … and the cast of smokers should have emphasised that. Who knows? An agent may say the film is unfunded, the musical struggling because lead players keep quitting … I am not to know and am too enthralled by that day of feeling as if you have won the Lottery.

16: What is being wounded in this dream?

The spoiling of the joy of saying “I’ve got it” – because by ‘getting’ three parts a significant dilemma presents itself.

17: What is being healed in this dream?

The idea that I might never again have that joyous feeling of being welcomed into a ‘team of players’ – I have always been thrilled by that moment.

18: What or who is the helping or healing force in this dream?

I don’t question the support and influence of others, in this case the two quite different directors, who happen to be female: one provides advice, understandably believing that she ‘has me’ – and when I admit to her there is another part I have been offered she pragmatically suggests a third party coming in to help me make the decision. The second director is so gung ho, takes me off to see people in her car with her co-director or producer and has me in a read through before I’m aware I’ve even said yes. I guess, if as young actor were offered three ‘dream’ roles after a career has been languishing each producer/director would naturally assume that they have their man?

19: Who or what is your companion in this dream?

Whomsoever I allowed to be … or no one.

20: Who are your helpers and guides in life as well as in your dreams?

Whomsoever I allowed to be … or no one. I am so bad at taking the right decision, or ignoring advice and doing the opposite, that I frankly relish that actors joy of being told what to do … just so long as it is a ‘good’ part rather than ‘man with spear.’

21: What symbols in this dream are important to you?

Behind the scenes in a theatre and at a read through. Being part of a ‘troupe’.

22: What actions might this dream be suggesting you consider?

Learn how to say no politely? If you can’t do that have someone else do it. Keep questing after the sensations that came from the dream: being welcomed into a throng of fellow performers and creatives.

23: What can happen if you work actively with this dream?

I do wonder sometimes how it is that I can end up, in a series of steps, so far away from the only world I wanted to be a part of since I was a kid and how despite on a number of occasions being embedded in such a world that it turned out to be so fleeting. I remember being on the stage for the first time and my love for the audience. I remember the joy of singing, even to a group of friends. I remember the pleasure of showing a drawing that thrills the sitter. I remember in wonder being on a film set for weeks. And casting actors. And directing them as they say many words. And being the one all turn to recreating a traffic accident where we had actors, extras, all the emergency services, flaming cars, make-up, film and video … Maybe I am so angry at how poor the Mike Newell film ‘Great Expectations’ is compared to David Lean’s version. Having recently re-read the book, seeing these back to back allows me to see all the joins, faults, and decisions. The wrong script, a poor understanding of the book … no ‘theatricality’ in the production beyond the costumes, even Ralph Fiennes being more of a Fagan than a Magwitch, the ham acting of David Walliams … or perhaps the familiar to have all the ‘characters’ played by character actors?! I’ve viewed with a critical eye every film or TV series I’ve seen since … forever. But I am, and have always been someone who never wants to be in the audience: I want to be in the thick of it. I’m not a spectator despite appearances or circumstances. I have seriously set about making myself available as a extra again … just to be on set.

24: What is being accepted in this dream?

There are still things I can do, or should do, that will have value to fellow creators? That I am repeatedly in denial of what makes me exceptional – not meant to be expressed in a big headed way, but rather sometimes none of us necessarily know what are skills are as we smother them by doing what ‘is expected of us’ or by the understandable drives of human nature: we marry, have and raise kids as a priority.

25: What choices can you make because of having this dream?

There is hope for me yet. I’m not that far away from aspects of this dream being a reality. I wouldn’t expect to be the performer, but I could imagine an actor taking a role that is my creation, that other ‘creatives’ latch on to and make into something. I did have the sense that all three of these productions were a similar thing.

26: What questions does this dream ask of you?

Get out there. Be part of a troupe. Be part of a creative team. Be with actors, directors, producers, artists, performers, stage hands, camera people ….

27: Why are you not dealing with this situation?

Inertia.

28: What do you want to ask your dream spirits?

Is it merely a compensatory dream? How can I sustain that joy of having or creating something that others want and are thrilled by? I got a kick from singing. I got a kick from people seeing my work in a gallery. I got a kick from being super fit and doing crazy things on a mountain!!! I am fed up being stuck at home, or ill (and ill). Despite the above, or it is part of it, I hanker after being on the ocean and under sail! Another team activity too. It is one thing to have a thrill on your own, it is quite another to share it – to have others enjoy your good fortune or to enjoy how thrilled you are about a thing.

The Oxford Theatre Group on the Edinburgh Fringe, August 1982

Thirty years ago I took a Sony Betamax kit to the Edinburgh Fringe and shot all the action around the Oxford Theatre Group as they set up, rehearsed then put on five productions: Titus Alone, Edward II, The Thirteen Clocks, The Oxford Review and The Hunger Artist.

The clips above are random grabs from the video. The playback quality suffers from drop out. There are several hours of rushes – putting up the stage, putting up posters around town, rehearsals in a sunlit hall for Titus Alone and the Oxford Review, and rehearsing Titus Alone outside on Arthur’s Mount. The cut ‘documentary’ features several copyright music tracks that I need to replace before the entire video can be shown, for now those featured can view by providing their email address.

For three decades the original Betamax tapes have been in a box, carefully stacked, in an attic or garage.

Nicky King, who produced Titus Alone wrote and voiced the ‘documentary’ with Matthew Faulk the editor – all achieved mixing between a Sony Betamax and VHS player.

I’m keen to put together the complete crew and cast list – I had or have programmes and posters somewhere in a large box.

The above include:

Patrick Harbinson, Nicky King, David Tushingham, Nigel Williams, Humprey Bower, Mark Ager, Rebecca Rosengard, Jack Latimer, Carrie Gracie … Stefan Bednarczyk.

Other productions I have from Oxford include: The Taming of the Shrew (OUDS) – hours of rehearsals, Abigail’s Party (Directed by Anthony Geffen) – the entire production, as well as various clips from other Oxford productions I am yet to identify.

Creativity, Innovation & Change WK 1 (Activities 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4)

CHAPTER 1 CREATIVITY (pp13-30)

What a fool. I always thought of business as boring.

I was a creative, an actor or performer, a writer or director, a visualiser. Yet beyond the antics of the undergraduate each of these can only happen in the context of a business: they have to be financed. Perhaps for too long I toyed unsuccessfully with the idea of being alone in a space with paints or pens (actually a MAC and a Wacom board).

I take notes, pen onto paper, while reading from an iPad. I will get home and find a box of books and will then read from paper and take notes on the iPad. My inclination is to have TWO tablets, one in my left hand to read (a Kindle if it will take the PDFs) the iPad under my right hand so that I can type in notes as I go along.

MY NOTES:

* developments so fast that they are unpredictable.

* expect the unexpected (Handy, 1991)

* increasing competition

* increasing pace of change

* need to add value through continual innovation

* globalisation

* creativity, knowledge & innovation over capital, labour & land

*growth in value of intangible assets

*

I can see that B822 complements H807 ‘Innovations in E-learning’.

In truth this already is closer to what I perceived H807 would be as there is substantial use of audio and video.

Table 1.0 Innovations with major impact on human history
I want to return to this, add to it and include images.

Plenty will be available under Creative Commons and Google Images.

ACTIVITY 1.1
How would I define creativity?

Innovative problem solving (business, technical, communications, aesthetic) with the outcome a product or artefact that is unique and possibly challenging or controversial.

WHAT ASSOCIATIONS DOES CREATIVITY HAVE FOR YOU?

The arts and media, from TV to film and music, theatre, art, books, ceramics and sculpture to creativity in commerce with advertising and architecture. Even putting up a pedestrian bridge can be a creative endeavour. Or making a sandcastle.

WRITE DOWN WORDS AND PHRASES THAT IT SUGGESTS TO YOU

illustration
Design
Copywriting
Inventiveness
Innovative
Clever
Head turning
Memorable
Unique
Controversial
Skilled

ALSO THINK OF:

Problem solving (appropriate)
New
Novelty is relative
Lasting impact

ACTIVITY 2.1

WHAT DO YO THINK CAUSES CREATIVITY, AND WHERE DO NEW IDEAS COME FROM?

In adverting a creative team, a copywriter and art doctor sit together to come up with ideas to sell a product based on a Creative Brief that answers the question ‘what is the problem?’ in this respect creativity is about solving problems, indeed movie producers and directors define film making as solving problems. Greyson Perry, the ceramicist, argues that ‘creativity is mistakes’, indeed creativity needs to be a challenge and a risk if the requisite innovation is to occur. For me creativity therefore comes from the desire to overcome a problem, which applies as much to composing a new song, writing copy or a book, designing a new machine, simplifying source code, drawing a sel-portrait, even making a meal with left-overs from the cupboard.

Creativity can be taught and engendered in everyone. The ‘genius’ is rarely born with a god-given gift, often a parent has pushed them to acquire and practice skills from a very early age. The successful ‘creative’ may well put in far more hours than Others, even possess a keener, more urgent desire and curiosity.

1950s an ability
1960s mental flexibility
1970s relevant experience
1980s intrinsic motivation
1990s work culture

(Engestrom’s ideas of activity systems are worth bringing in here).

ACTIVITY 1.3

Think about two or three people fro the worlds of:
Science: Prof. Brian Cox – his ability to communicate the complex in a clear and memorable way.
Art: Stephen Appleby – transvestite cartoonist. Caravagio, but perhaps not the Pre-Raphaelites. Jackson Pollock, Salvador Dali and Picaso.
Music: Bjork – weird and wonderful, Gary Neuman, David Bowie …
Business: Dyson – from the cyclone vacuum cleaner to the air-blade.
Sport: George Best – I don’t even follow football but at times his skill looks inventive, playful and in control. Some skiers and skaters.
Literature: Haruki Murakami – he has a voice of his own. Henry Miller, Will Self …
And any others: The Saatchis for their advertising in the 1980s; Terry Gilliam and the Monty Python Team.
Fashion: Jean-Paul Gaultier – how he dresses, what he design. Architects such as Richard Rogers and Zaha Hadid.

QQ. What do I think is creative about them or what they produce?

It can be outrageous, it works, it solves a problem, it leaves a lasting impression. They may be extrovert, outrageous self-publicists or introvert, even quite ‘normal’ like James Dyson, Terrance Conran or John Hegarty (Bartle Bogle, Hegarty). They persevere, they are confident or know no better than to be themselves writ large. They learnt their trade from the bottom up and stuck with it.

ACTIVITY 1.4

Think of someone creative people you know, and from work: a friend, relative or child.

What sort of people are they and how do they do thing?

They are observers and can be set apart. They can be egotistical and rubbish at time keeping and the everyday and mundane. They think a lot. They draw upon multiple references. They are highly intelligent. They may be troubled souls in conflict with themselves and the world. They care about their craft skills. Are they performers of sorts seeking cognition as well as reward for what they do? They are the first to do it? They are focused and goal driven.

But the truth, in a business setting might be quite different, with the ‘creative’ in this setting the good listener and team player?

REFERENCE

Handy, C. (1991) ‘The Age of Unreason’ in Henry (1991)

Henry, J., Mayles, D., Bell, R., et al (2010) Book 1, Creativity, Cognition and Development.

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