When I see energy and passion in a performer it fills my heart with joy. Sadly it happens only rarely and then more often than not I’m sitting in the cinema or the theatre. There are very few performers I see in the street or at open air events who excite much more than a passing academic interest. There are very few who I would watch to the end of their shows. There are even fewer who I would welcome to join with me on my stage to explore working together.
Of course there are exceptions. I wrote last week about being drawn into the performance of Martin Orbidans at the piano in Ilfracombe and how his wonderful talent made me invite him to become my accompanist this year. I also want to tell you about the wonderful talent of another performer who I meet with occasionally and whose passion for his work, whose skill and expertise in its presentation is remarkable, inspirational and rare. In 2011, juggler, comedy performer, escapologist, unicyclist and writer Greg Chapman (www.condensedhistories.com) was looking for a subject for his next show. While sorting kit, he came across an envelope containing his History Degree. The idea of combining variety performance and history was instantaneous, and the shows expanded to become Greg’s main form of event performance. Beyond the shows themselves Condensed Histories has moved into books and a podcast hosted by Greg with many special guests. Greg is now directing and shooting a steampunk film series. I love his enthusiasm and performance style. A style very, verydifferent from mine but I think the two are compatible on the same stage and it has been great fun exploring this compatibility.
Greg and I meet up from time to time and at the Isle of Wight Steam Show in August perform alongside each other in a daily finale to the shows on my stage. That we only rarely rehearse but seem always to be able to pick up from where we left off the previous year is testament to the faith I have in his ability and enthusiasm.
This year I also met a young couple who have the same passion and dedication to their art as Greg does. The Old Time Rags (https://en-gb.facebook.com/theoldtimerags) comprise of Laurence and Phoebe. Laurence is a one man band and has a remarkable and captivating style. His partner Phoebe is a tap dancer in the Appalachian flatfoot style (Google it) and shows such energy, passion and big-hearted enthusiasm in every tap that I just had to invite them to join me at some of my events this year. They performed with me on the stage at Wallingford BunkFest and at York Vintage Fair. Together their infectious love for performance make for a wonderful time-stopping experience for everyone (including me).
It is a very different experience having others onstage with me. The reactions from the audience are very different. Instead of being part of the relationship with me as solo performer, the audience is, in addition, an observer of the relationship I have with those other performers, and that they have with each other. A subtle yet key difference.
It is a difference which I have played with previously but have, more recently, avoided. Working with others has implications as well as rewards. You have to agree. You have to share the artistic vision and at a very basic level, you have to get on with each other. In the past I have found this has often been challenging. But at least for the present I am very happy to continue to explore an occasional liaison with these talented and exceptional people. For 2018 I am planning a show which commemorates the end of the Great War and will include some of these performers in a Variety Show with music, dance and physical theatre. It is still at the ideas stage and I will keep you informed as it grows.
All the best from a road near you,