performances to wow ya

One of the main focuses of my PhD study is autobiographical performance. There are a million threads to this tradition that I’m not following up on, mostly because I have an upper limit to the number of words they’ll accept. So you won’t be seeing me write about stand-up comedians whose work can be described as an extended monologue on their own life, or on traditional storytellers in the British tradition. But I have found some wicked stuff, both old and brand spankin’ new, that I think is well worth the time to investigate.

The granddaddy of them all (the performance, that is, not the performer!) is Mike Pearson’s Bubbling Tom (2000). He took his friends and family, as well as some more random folks, on a guided tour of his hometown. The richness of the work comes from his many years of passionate attention to site-specific performance, and the structure of the performance invited co-creation in such a lovely way.

Anything by Third Angel. I’ve got a work of theirs from 2000, Class of ’76, in the ol’ thesis already, but I’m also looking at a piece currently under development. Then a week and a half back I went to see the fantastic What I Heard About the World, which doesn’t fit into my autobiographical framework but shares the same approach that made Class of ’76 so compelling. And next weekend I’m dragging my better half to get involved in Story Map in London. You should go, too! Or at least check it out as it’s tweeted live (@AlexanderKelly) – you can get involved from wherever you are. Plus Alex Kelly is just about the nicest guy ever.

Last October I saw Legs 11 by Tom Marshman. I’ll give away the punchline of my analysis – by the end of the show, I was convinced that Tom and I must be friends from way back. I know this isn’t the case, but with my dreadful memory, five or ten years from now there’s every chance that I will have forgotten that I don’t actually know him, and start telling his stories from Legs 11 as though I’d heard them from my buddy Tom over a few beers in our favourite pub one night. I figure that counts for something.

Not long after that, I saw Old Me by a guy named Polarbear. Don’t ask, I don’t know. But for the love of dog, go see this man perform. It’s subtle, not overtly showy, and utterly compelling. I hate to admit this in public, but I was genuinely moved to tears, and that is NOT something that happens often.

I very recently had the pleasure of meeting Marcia Farquhar. I’m sorry to say I haven’t seen her perform ‘properly’, but now that I’ve spent a weekend working with her, I can’t wait to. I particularly wish I could see Acts of Clothing for the very selfish reason that it would contribute oh so neatly to my thesis!

I also had the chance to work briefly with Claire Morgan, whose spoken word piece Editors I’m going to see in Stockton a week from Wednesday. She’s located up in Gateshead. Go see her!!! Wowza!!!

OK, there’s my advice. Take it. TAKE IT.

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