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Saturday, 4 June 2016

It's only failure

Last night I did something really, really brave and it went tits up.

There is a wedding on today in the Monastery, in the Living Arts Base and we have around 70 guests, plus our resident 12ish. There was a little ‘concert’ in the theatre and we were asked if we wanted to sign up. Never shy in wanting to perform, I was on the lookout for adventure just as Nirvan, a wonderful improviser, asked if I wanted to do an improvisation act with him. I got a rush as I remembered, years past, clowning and the audience laughing their heads off at me being normal. Easy. Fun. Yes let’s do it!

We decided to do it in the toilet, because we’d had a little interaction in there that same day and thought we could use it as material from the real world. In the afternoon Nirvan asked me if I was ready. I had forgotten it was...erm...anywhere but in ‘the future’. So now a little nervous, I set to work in imagining scenarios, and even took some props.
However, at the time of the performance, Nirvan, without knowing it, disarmed all my props and also my story line. I walked in, with, nothing. At all. That’s not strictly true, I had a cold sweat.

Improv is something that happens out of thin air. Something (for me in the past) has always popped up. Something or other to spin a yarn with, to exaggerate our sense of pathetic human beingness, to be vulnerable with and so make people laugh.

But in the toilet last night, nothing happened. At all. No spark. No movement. Words fell like lead without even making a crashing noise. Silent void. We laboured on through, staying firm in our selves. I remember at one point looking into Nirvan’s eyes with rising panic, but I got through, feeling it, not reacting to it. Eventually we found ourselves sat on the separating wall high above. I looked down and there in the antechamber to the toilet were forty or more eyes looking at me: looking at me with anticipation; looking at me as if something was going to happen; looking for something, anything. I sat there my stomach filled with an empty feeling of nothing. Words had turned into white noise in my head. All I could associate with was the clammy cold sweat.

Sat there on that wall, in zero, being witnessed by so many people, I realised that, ‘I am OK with this.’ And that ladies and gentleman was a breakthrough for me. Being witnessed failing. Failing to produce, failing to be witty or wise or stir even a small pot of imagination. Failing with huge amounts of eyes on me. The result? I can take it. And I can take it again in the future.

After the ‘show’ Nirvan and I checked in. ‘How do you feel?’
‘Like a failure.’
‘Me too.’
‘But I’m OK with that.’
‘Me too.’

The power of it! The power of having stayed emotionally sound through the abject storms of nothingness gives me courage to do it again. It can’t get worse (can it?)

Where I’m starting to feel a deepening confidence is if it does get worse, I can handle it. It’s only failure.

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