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  • Writer's pictureJamal Gerald

Work in progress

Last night I did a work-in-progress sharing at Theatre Delicatessen in Sheffield. I personally HATE sharing my work in it’s early stages, but I know it is needed, especially when making an interactive performance. The majority of the responses were positive and I feel that I am currently in a good place. But, there’s still so much work to be done. I also can’t forget about how some people were triggered by some of the content. That’s expected though, I am making a piece that’s focusing on the way we talk about racial and gender inequality after all. But, it’s important to have a good mix of reactions. I believe that this is a sign that I am heading in the right direction. I would be really worried if everyone said that they loved it. I’m glad I am making work that pushes buttons and makes people feel uncomfortable. I think it’s important to play with people’s emotions in a piece of work. I don’t always like it when I go and see a show and I feel the same way throughout.

The piece is basically a reflection of society and it seemed as if some people couldn’t handle it. And some felt like I was out to get them. Some hear a few words and then they are triggered. For example I asked:

‘Can I have a show of hands for anyone who thinks that when talking about race and gender, white people, cis people and men just need to shut up and listen?’

An audience member heard me just say white cis men (he was this) and didn’t think it was fair for me to pin point at them. But, that’s not what I was doing. I am cis and also a man so there will be points where I may need to listen to things as well. I wasn’t out to get white cis men or pointing fingers at them. I think he just heard the things that he is and got a bit triggered. No one punched in the face though, so it’s all good. But, I believe that I did make a safe space in terms of people feeling comfortable enough to express their views. There was healthy debate and discussion which is what it always needs to be. A lot of people had things to say and everyone wanted to engage in the piece and that made me so happy!  I need to figure out how to prevent people from going off on tangents though; but I’m so glad the piece sparked a lot of debate. There was also a lot of passionate people in that room.

I got the chance to explore some really ambitious ideas. One being that I ‘tried’ to separate everyone based on their race, gender, class, sexual orientation, ability and religion (forgot to do that one). Just to showcase how ridiculous it can be to always put people into boxes. It wasn’t an easy task to do and I could feel that people felt extremely uncomfortable with it, before I even asked how they were feeling. Some felt suspicious of me for doing it and I found that quite hilarious. There’s an important element of audience care here, especially when some individuals may be standing by themselves. I was also quite surprised by why the audience felt so uncomfortable. Because they are associated with the boxes that I put them in. They are those things and that’s something we do in society, we’re always ticking and putting things into boxes. Even the people who don’t want to be labeled, will be labeled the ones that don’t want to be labeled. It’s just the norm and unfortunately I don’t think there is a way out of it. It’s just so ingrained within our society.

I also discovered that there’s so much weight to words, once a name or a particular type of person isn’t attached to it. There’s a person that people on the left despise that I quoted in the show. I didn’t use his name of course, because I don’t believe people would’ve taken the quote seriously. But, the majority of people in the room agreed with him. And I also quoted someone whose popular on the left, but many people didn’t agree with her quote, which I found really interesting. I wonder how certain quotes would have been received if I did mention the person’s name. This shows that it’s good for people to be open to different types of ideas.

The question is: How will the show end? I think that’s going to be the most difficult thing. I also find it difficult when shows focus on some issues but don’t come to a solution. And my piece is currently in that state. Eurgh. It’s very easy to complain about things, but not many people ever have a solution. This reminds me of so many diversity events - they always suck! It’s mostly people talking about what they’ve been through. And it’s never a thing of what could we do to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. I want to try and make sure that there is a solution at the end. But, I don’t want to preach to people. So maybe, it’s a thing of the audience making a solution together. I don’t know, but I still got plenty of time to explore. Overall, I am happy with how it went and I can’t wait to see what the show will develop into next.

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