In 2001 FoolishPeople was re-emerging from the chrysalis, after an extended break of six years (when I attempted to ignore the scream of my own personal truth.) My first son, Finn had just been born and I had a powerful realisation in that I knew I didn't want him to have a father that I didn't even recognise, a man who had become bitter and twisted because he wasn't brave enough to confront the creative fire that was burning him alive internally.
In this year zero I completed 'The Singularity'- FP performed this successfully at 'The Barn Theatre' in Welwyn Garden City and I was attempting to find a venue for FoolishPeople to show this work in London. I sent out a proposal for the project to a number of London Fringe Theatres, and had received an invitation to meet with the Artistic Director of a very well known fringe theatre.
When I was shown into the office of the Artistic Director, I noticed his office looked like a hoarder's flat. He moved a mass of papers, offered me a seat and started leafing through the script to 'The Singularity' which I had sent him. Not saying a word, but just sneering as he reminded himself of the work.
He turned around, got himself a drink, and gulped it down, (offering me a drink wasn't even a consideration), he probably received hundreds of scripts a week, from playwrights all attempting to get him to stage their work at his theatre. I was, to put it bluntly, the shit on the shoe of his day.
He broke the silence by telling me he'd read 'The Singularity' and it had some things he liked and others that he really didn't like. He didn't at all understand the concept of the immersive nature of the theatre I wanted to create- why did I need to use the stairs as well as the black box theatre at his venue? He laid it out in meticulous detail and defined what was expected of my work and my protagonist and why the immersive theatrical nature of 'The Singularity' wouldn't work. He told me that if I would change the work to a traditional play and could pay for the hire of the theatre, there could potentially be a way I could stage 'The Singularity' there.
In that moment I could feel the fear rising and his negativity threatening to extinguish what was a new beginning. It felt like a dangerous moment, where my life and work could turn and travel a path that would take me right back into the heart of despair. I sought out one single reason why he wasn't right, that I shouldn't listen to him and let him banish my ideas and dreams and in turn define the parameters of my art and ritual himself.
In that moment I remembered Les Tucker, who had taught me writing and devising at North Herts College. He'd introduced me to Artaud and encouraged me in the creation of my first written work, when the musical theatre material we were pushed to perform wasn't what he or I were really interested in. Les loved the horses, he always carried a copy of the racing times and he always defined his own path. I can never thank Les Tucker enough for the impact he had on me and the creation of FoolishPeople.
With this in mind, I explained why punk values were so important in FoolishPeople's work and demonstrated by showing him my middle finger.
There was a moment of shock between us both. This wasn't within the parameters of how a meeting between an unknown playwright and a well known fringe Artistic Director should go.
Polite English theatre is a myth, there's nothing polite in English theatre, it's still as bawdy and rude as it ever was. The essence of theatre just got better at hiding its truth, for fear of banishment.
Without permission I had ushered us both onto a new, strange path by my rude gesturing. A new story unfolded where anything could happen.
We got CPT the next week and The Singularity was shepherded into London under the stewardship of Chris Goode, who was the best mentor I could have asked for. Chris as an artist also defined his own parameters and I recognised Chris as another outsider. He completely supported the immersive theatrical ritual that was 'The Singularity' at a time when there was little to no other immersive theatre taking place in London. He recognised the power of these new parameters that were being offered to the audience from their immersion within a story.
Out of all of the auditions I've run for FP, the one I most remember is a lady who took a large knife out of her bag with her right hand and stared at us across the audition room like she was going to kill us all. She then retrieved a lettuce with her left hand from the same bag and hacked it to pieces. That was her audition. She took back the power from the audition process and from me as director. She redefined what was possible and because of that I'll never forget the experience until the day I die. It was truly amazing.
I'm not suggesting that in every exchange you should set out to redefine what is possible or expected but I think it's vital for art to exist within new parameters, outside the confines of what is safe and acceptable and this is one of the reasons why I think FoolishPeople's work still after twenty years remains outside of larger recognition. Society has mechanisms in place to reject that which is both very new and very old, whilst reinforcing the terrible nature of now, always now and never tomorrow or yesterday.
With each day that passes new parameters are emerging for artists. The tools exist today for you to develop, produce, shoot and distribute your own feature film yourself. Artists no longer need to rely on galleries to exhibit their work, there are empty spaces everywhere, offered up by the failure of the parameters of Capitalism. There's no one way, no simple solution on how to develop your ideas. Only you know the parameters and it's up to you to communicate and act as an advocate for your work and your own personal truth. You just need the will and tenacity to complete each stage of the process and do all the work necessary to manifest your art.
This is of course the very essence of the Fool archetype.
Like the Fool, there has never been a more dangerous, exciting or rewarding time to define your own parameters.