Friday, 6 January 2017

New York in 1990

IN this past year of many people dying, one more death just after Christmas  this year has affected me I think I felt it more than many deaths this year. Laurie Carlos. I imagine her looking at me with  disbelieving  but friendly eyes I hear her saying ' use your time well.' and a good use of time is to make sense of that time I spent living in New York many years ago.
I have been very low over the past couple of years, have felt I am a million miles from my past life as a performer and maker. There is no-one I could speak to here in London no-one to whom I could turn.  maybe the past as not been so important I have had other more pressing things- declining parents, my daughter, nothing taking off economically for me etc etc ...My 3intense years living in NYC was way back there, a different life, but there were things, things I felt then that I have left hanging unresolved and I want ti make sense of. I arrived into NYC on a wave of success. I was fortunate I was  in the right place at the right time;  but I was not aware that fortune played its part;  I didn't feel lucky; I felt I had earned it. I was riding a wave- - the Summit with my brother Barnaby and then with Swedish actor Lars Goran Persson had been a big success -it had sold out we were asked back the NYT reviews were extraordinary the piece won us a Bessy. Success in NY meant more to me than success elsewhere. I felt that in NY having reworked the Summit with LarsGoran we had converted the Summit from a wacky comedic thing with two brothers into an objectively good solid  piece of performance with its own methodology and groundbreaking methods. And on a trip to Jacob's Pillow I had fallen in love with Grisha and wanted be with her I wanted to be away from London. New York seemed a warm place to be. I had just shot an advert in Sweden for the Swedish Milk Marketing Board, who had the immortal strapline( which they'd had since the 1940s- MJOLK GEBT STARKE BENE( 'Milk gives you strong legs', always flashing up on screen, when they froze the image in the middle of the protagonist jumping ) We followed Carl Lewis as the 'celebrities'  in the advert. After I returned to London several thousand pounds richer, I wondered whether to buy a canal boat in London or move to New York. I walked along the towpath of the canal between Little Venice and Notting Hill and got talking to a woman who lived on  a canalboat with her husband and a dog
 'yes its lovely, life on the canal, the pace of life its slow. We love it here, we went to Uxbridge last week'
I thought 'I am going to New York'.
  So I  escaped to New York, I wrote down ideas for Dinner, a piece with 6 performers from 6 different countries speaking six different languages, sharing songs and dances around a  dinner meeting.The idea around Dinner and forming a cross cultural company  was bang on the zeitgeist . I talked to producers. They loved the idea and made it happen - it was a coproduction between Jacob's Pilow, the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis, Spoleto Festival in South Carolina and Glasgow 1990, then the European Cultural Capital. I didn't stop, I was very confident, I felt that any idea, thought, feeling I had was inevitably part of the zeitgeist what everyone was feeling. I was happy to be there -Downtown performance and NY minimalism  which I worshipped  and thought was the coolest place to be.  But I also recognised that it was squeaky clean white and that minimalism often squeezed the life, joy, duende, spirit out of things. Everything was ironic and cool, it assumed the audience had exactly the same agenda as the performers  an audience friendly to the performers but increasingly white and confused and beleaguered. It's focus was individual purity seriousness. I liked that meditative calm but also loved the  humour, heat and unpredictability of live entertainment. Maybe other downtown performers had rebelled against that purity and wanted something rougher and grungier but felt jealous of me or that I was taking funding from them- I don't know but despite feeling some resentment and suspicion I carried on regardless. I had the freedom to criticise, being an outsider, and the confidence that success brings, to make my ideas happen.

No comments:

Post a Comment