Friday 23 August 2013

Reclaiming Physicality and Performance

 Posted by Astra

Before joining Lashings, I hadn't been on stage in five years. In the interim, my creativity had been channelled through a laptop in words and visuals. And a lot of it still is, and I love that. But performing on a stage again has given me back a mode of expression that I'd missed terribly -- using the whole of my body to tell a story.

For me, the best parts of any kind of creative process are the moments when it consumes me -- glancing at the clock and realising that hours have passed while I've been doing nothing but hammering out the next part of a story or storyboarding a video. With something like writing, that doesn't happen all the time, and that's okay. It's perfectly possible to get excellent work done without the lightning bolt of inspiration.

But the nature of performance is immersive. I don't know what other performers' experiences of their work are like, but for me, if I'm not wholly invested in the moment when I'm on stage, I'm not doing a good job. And there's something thrilling about that, the way that inhabiting a role or an act requires all of my mind and body.

I'm used to creativity being a mental activity, but performing with Lashings has brought the physical back, and it's wonderful. I have to think about my stance, my mannerisms, my voice and my facial expressions and use them all in combination to communicate to a live audience, a vastly different experience than sitting at a desk writing a story. It's terrifying and really quite exhilarating.

I'm used to the kinds of pursuits that require skills like talking and listening, not running and dancing. But acting requires me to find a physicality that I usually ignore. Here at the Fringe, as Fanny Whittington nears the end of its second week, every part of me from head to toe is involved in what I'm doing. Every night I am bounding onto stage and demanding that an audience looks at me, not just my face but my whole body. It's frightening, not just to accept but to demand that kind of attention, but it's rewarding too.

So many of us at Lashings are from groups who are constantly told that our physical appearance is not good enough, that it not does not conform enough to narrow standards set out by society at large. As members of marginalised and oppressed groups we are so often told that we should neither be seen nor heard. But all of us get up on stage and we charm and delight our audience and we are fantastic just as we are. It's a wonderful thing to be a part of. I get a huge amount from it, and I hope some of our audience does too.

In an hour I'm going to get into costume and breathe life into Ali Chapman for the penultimate time. I will sing, dance, laugh, shout and perform for an audience for an entire hour, just like I've been doing every night for two weeks, and I can't wait.

Damn, it's good to rip the label off.

Fanny Whittington is on tonight and tomorrow night, 20:15, Gryphon Venues, Bread Street, Edinburgh.

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