The Clown Who Wasn’t Funny

I’ve lived in the Stroud area for over two years now, and while my work, both as a teacher and performer, has taken off overseas, until last Friday I hadn’t yet gotten around to performing my stories for adults in my home town.

There’s an additional level of vulnerability to performing in your own community. You don’t fly home on a plane, you don’t even catch a train home. No, you get in your car and you’re home in minutes. That means, really, that you’re still around, and however well or badly the performance went, you need to live with it.

I remember when living in the Findhorn Community, as I did for seven years until 2009, this effect was magnified. There, I’d get on my bicycle to go home, and people who had been in the audience the night before were in the shop the next morning. There too I took over two years before I started consistently doing my performances.

I wonder why it’s so hard… Given the way I tell, I’ve needed to develop a relationship with everything that gets thrown up by performance, all the fears, all the insecurities, everything that is holding me back. Performing in community brings all these to the surface, I become more accountable. This is necessary, but it’s tough too.

On the day of my performance, I suddenly realised that I didn’t have a theme to give the audience, to prepare the ground for the story. No sooner had this thought crossed my mind than the theme came to me, “What’s holding you back?” Only later did I realise what a perfect theme this would be for this particular performance.

I still feel a thrill to think of what happened that evening. I basically answered the question myself, live, in the middle of the performance. Suddenly, at one point in the third story, I started to tell the story in the first person and to describe my (fictional) experiences as a storyteller in a riotous tavern in the seedy part of town. You probably need to listen to the story to get what I’m talking about, but I am still a bit shocked, and still rather proud, at the rawness and audacity of this telling, my debut home gig, the first of many to come….

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