Well, well, well Sheffield you do surprise us. Before I begin though, what a day it was – I felt like I’d hardly stopped moving all day. Jumped on a train in the morning to be whisked ‘oop north’, arrived with an hour to wander around Sheffield which was resplendent in the autumn sunshine, and then straight down to business at the theatre where we had to set up, chat about the previous show, and then perform. And then, sat back down on a train heading in the opposite direction, wondering where all the hours of the day went. Home beckoned, but certainly not because the show was anything less than brilliant.
So, details then – our illustrious writer, Carl Miller, had some notes yesterday which resulted in a bit of a shake up on some of the scenes in the piece. I often find this is a great way to keep actors on their toes and to ensure that everything is kept crisp and fresh. In fact, I think some of the script was the best I’ve ever seen it and certainly the audience responded really well.
I should also point out that, Sheffield, you provided us with our biggest audience yet (Go Sheffield!) and what a great audience it was. I counted twenty-six heads and all of them thoroughly screwed on and engaged with the piece. A very creative audience too – some poets, some playwrights and a fair few theatre-makers. The result being that we had some great discussions about the characters and how they made the audience feel. One gentleman responded to one of the characters by saying it was nice to hear parental voices and that, while we didn’t actually hear from her at the end, the mother with the tea cups (or, interestingly, bangles perhaps) represented a more positive angle where parents could be accepting – an interesting follow on from the discussions we were having at mac birmingham.
For the first time yesterday I was able to have a very in-depth discussion with one man who had come from a very similar family background to me. I enjoyed talking about how a small family can sometimes seem very restricting because the support we crave can only come from a select number of people and how, in many ways, we had grown our support network from the communities we inhabited so as to have a larger group of people we could reply on for love and acceptance. By the way, readers, this is not to decry the support I get from my family whom I love and am very grateful for, but sometimes a person needs a larger foundation and this can often come from one’s community of friends.
Interestingly in this instance, I am maybe guilty of forgetting that my family has feelings – something we talked about last night and I found very interesting. We expect so much from our families and yet how much do we really give back to them? One gentleman raised the issue that, after coming out to his mother, she refused to talk about it and, when finally pressed on the subject, responded with “why should I talk about it, nobody asks me about my life!” – a really interesting idea and one that has definitely made me stop and think about how engaged I am with my family’s troubles and issues. I would like to hope I am not all take, take, take but the conversation yesterday encouraged me to think about this.
So I think that will be enough about last night. We’re now over half-way through the run. Leicester is our next stop on Friday. And then Newcastle on Friday. I hope you’ll have a read of that post when I’ve written it. Finally made it home by 2am…good job I wasn’t working in the morning…oh wait, I did! Deep joy! Until the next time – stay fabulous!
(Robert Beck’s future projects include assisting on a commission by Transport for London to commemorate the workers that came over from the West Indies and the Caribbean in the ’40s and ’50s to work on the tubes and buses as well as assistant directing a production of Treasure Island – both with The Greenwich and Lewisham Young People’s Theatre. He will also be working with Dickie Beau on a number of workshops in October. Follow him on Twitter @Rhubarb1992…I know he asks this in every post but do it anyway!)
BBC Journalist Ruchi Tandon, visited us in Birmingham last week. She spoke to one of our interviewees from last autumn and me. This piece was aired on BBC Asian programmes local radio across the regions on Sunday (22nd) just gone. It is available to listen online for another 4 days here. It starts 54.45 and ends 59.20.
Paulette Edwards of BBC Radio Sheffield just recorded an interview with me. It will be aired at 2.40pm today on her show. Listen here.
Numbers for Sheffield today are at 26. Expecting a few of my new city people and avid project supporters tonight.
Time to do it all again! After a couple of days off – which felt very strange after having spent so much time with everybody last week – we reconvened at Smethwick library yesterday, raring to go for Beneath the Surface event 2!
There was a considerably more relaxed feel in the room when I arrived. We’d done it once so why shouldn’t we be able to do it again? The post-Southbank event discussion highlighted an intensity in the room during the event. We understood part of this was the direct relevance of the content for most of the audience. Some of this would have been aided by the character of the room like the low ceiling and so on. And finally, probably somewhat informed by our own first show apprehension. We decided that we consciously needed to make the space warmer for the audience. We played some music on arrival and just generally tried to be more at ease…easier said than done.
The audience was slightly smaller than had booked. Apparently, through some quirk of irony, there was some postcode confusion for a few; some had been directed to The Smethwick Conservative Club rather than the library…without wishing to get political, I can think of nothing the Tories would love more than our audience arriving at their club! Still, we had a good number through the doors. Interestingly, today’s audience was made up of families in the main and there was a more even cultural mix of Asians and other communities. There were a few supporters of the project in too – my Dad for one! So again, it was a very warm and receptive audience.
The performers are definitely gaining confidence in performing their parts. Their smooth delivery is a marvel to watch and, personally, I have always loved listening to them enunciate their lines. During the audio extracts I find myself just listening to the hard consonants and softer vowels and the range they perform with – it’s magical!
Then it was on to the discussion after the show. Again, it was great to hear people’s reactions to what they’d seen and how their own experiences affecting their engagement with the piece. One man was very articulate in expressing his belief that you can be both gay and Indian and that while we collectively feel that it is something we cannot talk about, actually on an individual basis we are very free and open with discussing these ideas.
Similarly, I had a very interesting discussion about how the concept of family represents the idea of unconditional support and love, whether you come from a very large family or a very small one. I come from a very small, close-knit family while some of the people I talked to come from very large, extended ones. Yet we both agreed that a family takes care of each other and supports it’s members. It was interesting how people from such different backgrounds can hold very similar beliefs and I found it fascinating to discuss and listen.
So hot off the tail of Smethwick, we are in Birmingham tonight at mac birmingham. God knows what state I’m going to arrive in – ironically, while I am a Midlander through and through I have absolutely no idea how to work the bus system in Birmingham! So this may be my last blog…that or I’ll be writing to you from Glasgow or something equally ridiculous! Until the next time – stay fabulous!
(Follow Robert Beck on Twitter @Rhubarb1992…because he’s lonely and wants more followers!)
See feature by Gay Star News writer Liam Johnson on Beneath the Surface.
This activity is supported by Arts Council England. GEM Arts has co-commissioned the script development. It wouldn’t have been possible without the support of many arts and LGBT sector partners in each city area.
After much blood, sweat and tears we’re in business… Beneath the Surface is having an outing in early autumn. We’re running 6 workshop events from north to south, well south to north, with performance extracts.
In London we’re working with the Southbank Centre, building on some preliminary work done there back in April as part of Alchemy. In Sandwell we’re working with Black Country Touring and Smethwick Library reaching local grassroots communities. In Birmingham we’re working with Healthy Gay Life and Sampad at mac. In Sheffield we’re working with Sheffield Theatres, Sheffield City Council, Centre for HIV & Sexual Health and Point Blank. In Leicester we’re working with Leicester LGBT Centre and Curve Theatre. In Newcastle we’re working with GEM Arts, MESMAC North East and Pride Cafe. It’s all very exciting!
This stage is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. GEM Arts has co-commissioned the script.
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