Friday, 23 April 2010

Poetopoly V

Imagine if you will, an 'opportunity' in an e-mail posting you get regularly...normally it's something you wouldn't touch dead in a ditch with a bargehole - it's a pigeonhole, metropolitan, and ending up almost fascist in its narrow definition of 'diversity'... but you are arm twisted into it by someone whose opinion you trust, to go for it (out of that mixture so familiar to many artists of desperation and recoiling from past missed chances). You get a place on this day long 'workshop' with three full time paid lit. professionals (a writer, a poet and a comedian). With an evening performance at a small theatre in a big city over a hundred miles away. But luckily, you have friends you can stay with there, and so you go. The day - linked to Radio 4 as a 'talent spotting' exercise of some kind is a nightmare. You used to very occasionally write comedy - you did at college, but you haven't for years, and that's not what you do. The day, while open (so as not to upset equal opportunities) to folks from all sectors of society, has a post-colonial brief. Again, you've been known to turn up a piece on the theme, but not for years - again, it's just not what interests you. But you do at least manage to find an old 'comic' piece of writing you can bring along. And when the (incredibly patronizing) professional hosts for the day treat everyone as if they've brought along the best work they can do, when you've just brought along what you thought would fit in least badly - well, don't you regret it! The other participants are reasonably friendly, but the hosts are simply gushing about some work, insincere about others, and don't believe you have just tried to fit the brief, and are not attached to the piece of work. You offer to knock something else up - or (now you've found out they will allow non comedy, though it isn't what Radio 4 or the other big organization represented will commission or pick up) something else that you actually believe in, that you always have to hand. But they make you stick to the piece you've both had to change and cut down, and by the end of the day, have frankly come to dislike.
The evening performance too is a nightmare. Not only do the performers who draw laughs or approval talk about the very matters which you actively avoid as yesterday's news or pigeon-holing in its very ubiquity, but you have of course to perform something you no longer believe in under the critical gaze of not only those who've decided you're no good, but who have active power in large fields of opportunity to make sure certain doors stay firmly closed to you on the strength of it...You perform the twisted comic monologue fine - not as well as you could have done, but then you have no experience of performing comedy, but it was alright. The CD they pack you all off with at the end you don't bother playing until years have past, when you have done comic stuff on stage (although in another artform).
And then of course, once you become an administrator in the scene, ads come to you, even for these hosts whom you know to be patronizing and of whose work at least, you actively dislike...What to do? Just let it go. When folks say 'aren't x great?' just nod. There comes a point in any scene where if you've seen enough, but always had a different take on what you wanted to see and indeed do, but that it was a hard-to-get-commissioned thing, or a lateral take, the danger is that you will always stand outside the scene, and heartily dislike acts which other folks really go for or admire. Don't get bogged down in sounding as cynical as you sometimes feel. Keep that for the stuffed toy on the shelf! And actively seek out acts that you can relate to, that are like what you yourself do (or would have done), to connect with in some way. Always have an 'I prefer' reply, rather than a 'No I don't'.
It isn't easy. No one's claiming it is. Chin up. Minor parking fine.