Storyteller, poet, rapper, theatre maker
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Paul's blogging again

High Rise eState of Mind

I’m told no one reads this stuff anymore, articles, blogs etc. Instead, as an artist, who probably needs people to engage with what I do, I should be banging-out Instagram posts, with pictures and videos of what I’m doing, whilst putting a squillion hashtags underneath. Whilst I have and use an Instagram account (plus twitter and facebook as well) and enjoy the accounts of some other artists, I’ll be honest, I can’t really be arsed with it. I realised a long time ago, that I’m shite at taking pictures and for the most part, appearing in them as well. What I do enjoy, though, (on the occasions when I can get it together to do it) is this. Taking the time to sit down and write something. If, as I’ve been told, that no one reads this stuff, fair enough, mate. It’s a task. So maybe me doing this is pointless then? Or maybe, I’m just crap at promoting it, or both. If it really is pointless, then so is all the other stuff I do. As in, what’s the point of any of it? I’ve come to realise that life ‘aint all about getting to points, being all pointy and that. Sometimes, I think, it’s worth just doing something for the sake of it, like now, look, there’s words appearing on this screen, I crafted this, it’s a thing, it exists. A crafty (not craft beer, allow that!) thing without a pointy point. Well, that ‘aint strictly true, there is a point to this, sort of, just taking my time getting to it, that’s all and this paragraph I’m about to finish, is the pointless bit but I guarantee you, it’s way more fun for me to write.

HIGH RISE eState of MIND

Our latest show is here (our being Beats & Elements). We kick off at Battersea Arts Centre form March 20th – 30th. After that, we head to Gloucester in April for two dates TBC, then finally to Camden People’s Theatre May 7th-11th.

If you saw our first show, No Milk For The Foxes, back in 2015, it was kinda-like a play but with rapping, spoken word, looping and beatboxing. This new one, not only has twice the cast size (there’s four of us now, there was two of us in Foxes) – there’s even more rapping, spoken word and beatboxing, all done live.

In the show, we tell a story, set in the future, with three characters who live in a high rise building where the super-rich live on the top, the middle class, who are in the middle floors and the poorest on the bottom, with a fourth character (who I play) who is a bit like a strange robot-narrator, that lives in the building and fixes things. The idea is inspired by the JG Ballard novel High Rise. Interspersed with the story set in the future, we each tell our own stories around housing. What we’re trying to do is pretty ambitious, it’s easily the most challenging thing I’ve ever worked on, in terms of the writing, the devising and the performance. We rap, beatbox, sing, move, speak, act and have to remember what comes next and trust me, there’s a lot!

What I’m trying to do here is promote it but also to provide a bit on context about it, writing this thing here, helps me, actually, so if you’re interested, you might wonna’ purchase some tickets?.

After we did Foxes, it wasn’t long before me and Con were talking about starting a new project. We both identified we wanted to work with Junior (Gambit Ace) and Lakeisha Lynch-Stevens, both of whom we’d worked with before. Con came to me with the High Rise book as a starting point. We used Owen Jones’s Chavs book as a starting point for Foxes, so this just continued something for us, we both talk and read a lot.  High Rise is nuts and I thoroughly enjoyed it and it weren’t long before Con got all four of us together. It was over two and a half years ago now, we’ve had various different blocks of development for it (none of which were paid by the way, we just did off our own backs, but thanks to Camden People’s Theatre, Arc Stockton, The Barbican and Battersea Arts Centre all of which gave us space) so far and all in all, did six work-in-progress performances. Five at Camden People’s Theatre and one at Wilderness festival in 2017, so coming into this first run at BAC, I think we’re in a good place with it.

Con’s taken the lead in directing this one and he’s shaped it into something which I don’t think I’ve seen before, not the way we’re doing it, anyway. I’ve learned more from working so closely with Conrad than anyone else, ever. He really is both a student of the theatre and a pioneer, I’m fortunate enough that I get to come along for the ride, be part of it and contribute my own skill set and ideas. All those years ago now, he convinced me that I should be rapping in the theatre, this was way before I’d ever heard anything about Hamilton, it was a skill that I had, so we used it. I assumed (wrongly) that people wouldn’t get it. In essence, that’s all we’re doing here, telling the stories we want to tell, in our own way, using a medium that we know best, rapping, spoken word, looping, beatboxing, in order to create something that’s meaningful to us and hopefully many others.

In a time where there’s a lot more conversations around class, race and ethnicity popping up, in the arts, who gets to represent on stage etc, it seems as if it’s beginning to move in the right direction, in terms of facilitating a genuinely diverse talent-pool of backgrounds, however, it does still feel like the diversity doesn’t yet stretch as far as a diversity of ideas and also, it does still feel there are a legion of cultural-gatekeepers, who probably aren’t diverse in either sense, who get to say what gets allowed through. Proofs in the pudding I guess, we’ll see if and when we’ll get any reviews. Either way, we’ve worked hard on this and we’re proud of it, and we started making stuff all these years ago, purely because we enjoy it, what else would we do? Come and have a butchers’.