International fame at last
All my life I have felt ready for fame. Not the fame of the 21st century celebrity with the attendant tears, but a former fame. The days of crossing the Atlantic on a steamer with Chaplin and Alastair Cooke, of hoofing the boards with The Good Companions in J B Priestley’s story of an inter-world war travelling troupe or starring in a socialist sensation directed by Joan Littlewood at Theatre Royal, Stratford East in the 1950s.
So I have to wait until I am staring at my biblical allocation of three score years and ten before the first tickling of what international fame might have been like. I am still ready. Perhaps even more so now because I won’t be so egotistical in its consumption, so ‘I’d like to thank my agent and my mother’ in welcoming its strange fleeting state. ‘Fame is no plant that grows on mortal soil’, said John Milton. I’m ready for that kind too.
The strange thing is that after all this time of readiness, international fame has arrived twice in the same month.
Anyway enough of this obtusity (not a real word but it fits anyway). The first hit. Those who regularly read these pages will know of my winter work with Cat’s Paw Theatre, a company I co-founded over twenty years ago and which has annually presented forum theatre productions on important social issues, mostly, but not exclusively, to children and young people. For the last nine years we have been closely occupied with one fundamentally important issue for 13 and 14 year olds. Rape and Sexual Consent. Initially co-funded by the North Wales Police and other agencies arising from the chilling statistic that more than half of the victims of rape in North Wales were under sixteen, the piece has toured to every high school in the six counties in Welsh and English, each year dependent on funding clawed from whatever agency deemed it that important or in keeping with their current political perspectives. And in 2018 it finally did look as though, despite all our efforts and passionate beliefs, there was to be no more funding.
And then there was The Guardian. A chance, brought about by the current preoccupation with #metoo, a young hack discovers Cat’s Paw Theatre and writes an article. You can read it here:
Within a week of publication, we had offers of work in Ghana, visits from UK practitioners wanting to view the work and, the most relevant for this chapter, an invitation from Wolverhampton University to explore and develop a MA Social Care level action research partnership examining the potential use of Cat’s Paw forum theatre in that Higher Education sector. WOW. Our resultant workshop piece titled, ‘Sex. Relationships. Intimate violence.’ will be seen at the university by the BA and MA students and their lecturers in April. Watch this space.
Hit two. An email from Rhys Edwards. Would I be OK with the National Geographic featuring his film of me on their website showcasing the best short documentaries which “look for work that affirms National Geographic's belief in the power of science, exploration, and storytelling to change the world”? Err let me think about that…
If you haven’t ever seen it, grab a cup of tea and a comfy seat, make sure the computer is all set and click. It’s only eight minutes. Let me know what you think.
If you’ve seen it before watch it again. This time, don’t watch it for the cavorting shenanigans of its crazy subject but for the sheer artistry of a genius filmmaker at work. Spot the marvellous slightly slow-motion moments (my personal favourite few seconds) when three or four from the young audience watch the linking ring fly into the sky. Or the clever GoPro camera shot as they run after me on the big unicycle. If you still have time while your tea is cooling, spend another three minutes watching his other nominated National Geographic film short – ‘A Good Bitch’, politely renamed for National Geographic sensibilities, 'How to Whistle for a Sheepdog the Traditional Welsh Way' - the touching gentle story of a welsh sheep farming family, which won first prize in the reed.co.uk national film competition. The prize from which allowed Rhys to invest in the film he made of me. The opening shot sequence is worth the prize alone.
And now I’m going away to brush up my acceptance speech.
All the best from a road near you,