Third Festival of Solo Autobiographical Theatre
Dates: 9 – 12 July 2015
Venue: Ashprington Village Hall, Totnes, Devon TQ9 7XA, United Kingdom
There’s a great story about the BBC radio broadcaster John Humphries interviewing the artist Tracey Emin during which he says: “You’ve exploited being Tracey Emin.”
“But I am Tracey Emin”, she replies.
When we take our close-up, known and familiar story and put it “out there” for everyone to see, we render the ordinary exotic, or extraordinary, and what is routinely considered natural or inevitable can be scrutinised for alternatives, options or new opportunities. Not just for us, but for those around us too.
I think this is what most attracted me to autobiographical theatre. It is a theatre of possibility; ideas that have spent years masquerading as truths in our lives can be identified, exposed, challenged and changed.
Here’s a very simple example from my own life.
For almost 50 years, since I was at grammar school, I held it as true that my headmaster was a tyrant who really did not care about me or my future. Indeed, I felt he did everything in his power to try and kick me out of school.
Another story I told myself was that after my sister was born and diagnosed as disabled, nobody noticed what happened to me. (I went from the top of the class to consistently bottom of the class.)
Then, six months ago (remember I am almost 66 now!) I was preparing for the next festival and thinking about my next performance, and I was looking at my old school reports, and I suddenly saw that the headmaster kept writing, (three times a year no less):
“Morris is one of our more talented students; Morris is not fulfilling his potential; if only Morris would settle he could achieve anything he set his mind to.”
And I realised “he noticed”. And if he noticed, who else noticed?
And if others noticed, how true is my story about people not noticing, and if that story isn’t true, which of my other stories aren’t true too?
And suddenly this architecture, this structure of identity, all started to disintegrate … and the sense of relief and freedom I experienced was incredible.
Theatre performance is an in the here and now experience, while keeping an eye on the future. Autobiographical theatre allows us to engage with our current issues and concerns and to transform them into possibilities for the future, new directions and a sense of a new preferred identity.
Creating and performing your own show is a way of revealing futures that might otherwise have remained invisible.
And the joy of showing the story in public, especially in community, is that the people who are important to us, closest to us, have the chance to know us and relate to us in a new and different way. A new story about us circulates between us all.
One writer, Dee Heddon, put it like this:
“Autobiographical performances provide a way to talk out, talk back, talk otherwise.”
This year’s festival will start a 6.00 p.m. on Thursday 9 July and will run through to 5.00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. The programme is being finalised and I will post on this website soon.
At this point it looks like there will be two performances on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and a matinee on the Sunday afternoon.
There will be a solo theatre workshop between 10.00 a.m. and 3.00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
If you would like to be on the team (front of house, bar, stage management etc.) please drop me an e-mail or call me on 07838 196628. And if you would like to book tickets, let me know about that too.
Whether you are coming from South Brent or East Finchley, from Staverton or Syosset, from the UK, Mexico or the USA, from Scotland Ireland or Israel, I very much look forward to welcoming you to any of the days or nights of the festival.
In the meantime, please spread the word.