Creative Highs and Campervans

It’s a bit of a cliché that performers live just for those few moments on stage. There are many highs, which admittedly include a massive laugh followed by thunderous applause but much as we love and need our audiences, it’s not always about you. A great rehearsal is a thousand times more fun than a bad gig. And so-called ‘devising days’ can be positively orgasmic. When you’re in a room with a creative chum or two, and you throw in a germ of an idea and the lines and jokes and crazy stuff just keep flowing, and you’re laughing, they’re laughing, and you’re thinking “this show is going to be ***BRILLIANT!”, it’s a feeling like no other.

For the past four years, I’ve assumed an artist’s existence is largely about these creative highs that can almost operate as fixes, getting you through long periods of self-doubt and the ever-present grunt work. Still, I’ve been enchanted by the freedom and giddy sense of self-responsibility that comes with making your own work. Nowadays, there’s so little gap between having an idea and acting on it, I’m almost letting my feet steer my brain. It’s the philosophy of “Ready, Fire, Aim”, the subject of a business book by Michael Masterson, which I haven’t read, thus explaining why I haven’t gone from Zero to $100 Million in No Time Flat. However, “follow your impulse and review the consequences after” pretty much sums it up, so now I’ve saved you the outrageous cover price of £29.70 on Amazon.

One of these impulses saw me, my co-star Rhiannon Vivian, our director Oliver Senton and my photographer friend Stuart Hull in a farmers field outside Farnham last Thursday, making cheese and pineapple and shooting footage for social media in a vintage 1960s VW Campervan. (Not unlike my alter-ego Honey, I get these ideas that swell inside my bosom and once they take root it’s very hard to dislodge them.) I had imagined us, a new team, enjoying one of those artistic, ‘creative high’ days; larking about, playing around with ideas, Stu shooting loads of random footage of us and Campervan eye candy. That was until another artist friend Marcus, who is the Sancho Panza to my Don Quixote, reminded me pointedly that acres of unstructured footage would be a nightmare to edit, it would cost more time and money than I had, and as it was about four weeks to the first show, we should decide exactly was to go into the trailer and what would be good on social media, script it, rehearse it and film JUST THAT.

Beginning with the end in mind, having a clear structure, planning everything meticulously, so that everyone knows what they’re doing is what I’ve always done for every corporate team building event I’ve ever facilitated. I just hadn’t thought of doing this for my own work. Or maybe I was just so in love with being AN ARTIST, I wanted to do everything in that groovy, emergent, uber-creative devising-day way. My inner corporate woman grabbed the wheel and duly impressed Oliver with an A4 ring binder with punched pockets and a nice pen.

Half way through the day, I said to Oliver “I love this”. By ‘this’ I meant the four of us just getting on with our respective jobs, being a team, trusting each other, and having – well, not an orgy of creativity – but just easygoing fun and some spontaneous ad lib along the way. It was all going exactly according to plan and it felt great. It’s obvious when I think about it. Discipline and planning is integral to serious artists’ work – these are not skills that are unique to business.

I’d always said to myself I wanted to reach the point where being an artist felt like the day job rather than the adventure on the side of the day job. Then it would feel normal and routine (in a good way). Our Campervan team day felt exactly like that. I found my mojo last week, not on stage, but in a farmer’s field outside Farnham.