At the end of 2015 I had a week at National Theatre of Scotland doing an Artist Lab to develop a new show about utopias, negotiation and East Kilbride. The week was a lesson in taking advice. I think every single good thing about the week was a direct result of someone else’s excellent advice. I was advised by Caroline Newall and Anna Hodgart to bring in a director who was working ahead of where I am rather than ploughing through on my own (which I do when I’m nervous/always). I was advised by Vickie Beesley and Olly Emanuel to ask Joe Douglas because he is ‘excellent and a lovely man’. Before I started the lab I spent a week reading up on post-war planning and New Towns, had the idea to do the show as an interactive game, asked Joe about it and he advised to strip the game back until it was as simple as possible.
I had anticipated arriving on day one with loads of bits of paper and trying, with Joe, to find a form, but Joe liked my game idea and so, on his advice, we went for it. It’d said to Caroline that I wouldn’t do a sharing, but Joe advised me to do one. That day. The first day. So I did. After having a go, Caroline immediately advised me to look at Coney’s work, which I spent a lot of the next day doing. The sharing wen’t pretty well, but I wasn’t that delighted by it. Pleased, not delighted. I was going to wait till the end of the week to see Joe again, but he advised me to see him on the Thursday to check in with the changes we’d decided on to help me feel delighted.
In the two days he was away I had all the emotions and was glad of a list of tasks we’d set. I’d have a bit of an emotion kicking off, and then I would turn my eyes to the list, do a task, tick it, see on-coming emotion, list, do, tick, emotion, list, do, tick, etc. I was super glad that Joe was coming in on the Thursday (as he had advised) instead of the Friday as, by the end of the Wednesday, I’d ticked everything and would have spent the Thursday just doing the emotions. Luckily, Joe arrived and emotion ceased. He set me writing tasks, which we had to do in the corridor because there was a pilates class in our rehearsal room. The corridor work was THE BEST. I finally spoke to the people I’d been scuttling past on my way to the rehearsal room, and they were interested. They contributed, advised. Hearing Joe talk about the show to other people made me feel like it sounded good. In the afternoon we met with Caroline and Anna and they suggested I did a sharing on the Friday with new people. OF COURSE I SHOULD DO THIS. I had spent all this time making these objects to be used in the game over the two days I’d had on my own, and it HADN’T OCCURRED TO ME that I should have people play the game. Advice is the best!*
On the Friday I was somewhat unexpectedly, heart-thumpingly, oxter-sweatingly nervous. I had three new folk to see the show, two from NTS and one pal (THANK YOU AMY CONWAY) and they liked it. It sparked some discussion, they had had emotions. Afterwards, I was advised to strike while the iron was hot on pursuing the idea, advice which I slavishly followed (I had spotted a slight pattern of advice = good by this stage) and immediately made a meeting to work out where next for the show.
And now that hot iron means that I am doing a wee trial of the game this Friday for a fundraiser for refugees called First Foot To Arrival and I will be able to try it for a bigger audience, and with spectators, and with the players being drunk. I advise myself to roll with it.
* In my normal life, I pretty much hate a thing most if I have done it because of advice. Ooooooonlyyyyyyy chiiiiiiild. I say this so you are forewarned of my face if you advise me about stuff. I, however, dish out advice like it’s vegan chocolate. Look forward to that.