For me, it was important to begin this process without any fixed plans. This way I can remain completely free and spontaneous. I wanted to be able to act on invitations and follow recommendations, as well as expose myself to that feeling of not knowing where I’ll end up or how I’ll get there. This magical feeling requires an understanding of what kind of relationships I’m inviting; putting myself in the hands of the universe and trusting it will provide. To really experience this – and to rekindle the connection with the stories of my past travels – it was important to live this decision fully, which is why I have decided to hitch part of the journey.
So many of my stories are of people I’ve met on the side of a road: becoming acquainted as I squeeze my haul of over-provisions into their back seat, balancing rucksacks on my knee as we chat about serendipitous connections. In fact, re-enacting such a scenario is exactly how I began my WalesLab interview. To say that the panel from NTW were initially confused would be an understatement, but the decision paid off as I was really able to convey the intriguing and dynamic nature of these experiences. I envisage these stories will be the main threads of this project, and recapturing that atmosphere – noticing the minutia of the process is vital to breathing life into them.
Though I have no fixed plans, I definitely have some key aims and ideas. Firstly, I am going through all of my old travel journals and selecting all of the stories of my journeys through Wales. Secondly, I’m collecting new stories from my experiences through WalesLab and from the people that I meet. Finally, I’m using the landscape as a way of channelling my thoughts and feelings of what I’m doing. I realise that to some this may sound like arty bollocks. Far too often I read biographies or a précis of a piece of work and question what sentences like that really mean; I’m left confused and wondering about the mechanics of the process. For me, on a practical level, it might be that the twists and turns of the road throw me about and help translate those physical feelings into a turbulent piece of dialogue I’m working on. But the influence of landscape is not always so directly translated – I’m aware of it seeping into my psyche as I move along cliff tops and down shaded lanes, how it will manifest in text or in my decision making we shall see. Right now though, the expanse of fields stretching out before me reminds me of the need for space – and I thoroughly believe that this is as important in a piece of theatre as it is for peace of mind in our busy lives.
Yesterday, as I was walking along a beach, I saw four figures silently walking along the shoreline. They were a family – or at least they appeared to be. Their silhouetted figures spaced out equally as if they were recreating a famous album cover, minus the zebra crossing. It struck me that even the most natural of experiences can appear stylized. The sound of the waves accompanied their movement, and as I watched them disappear from sight I became acutely aware of my sense of space. Thoughts of how this could be recreated without seeming contrived whirred around my mind, and the whirl and splash of the sea stretched out across the Tenby coastline allowed me to drift, and sensing the breadth of the expanse of sand I felt lighter, gently lifted and almost merging into the landscape. A stylized naturalism is a challenging aesthetic to play with – a delicate balance of the subtle and the bold, and one I’d like to explore.
We all respond differently to the environment around us, but by in large there are common experiences we share. I think the sea has a calming presence on most of us, and our emotions and physicality are effected. Science tells us that chemical processes within us are triggered by our senses, and hence how we experience the world in that moment is altered. But I don’t want to explore the science any more than that. It’s enough to know that we can influence (even manipulate) how we feel, and as an artist – whether we are a writer/director/designer/performer or play some other role in the experience – this is exactly what we try and induce through our work.
I hope that whatever emerges from this experience, I am able to capture some of these environmental and elemental influences of travelling through Wales in this way.
Old Man on a bench: Cold. Isn’t it. You’re travelling light I see! [Laughs into a cough] It’ll keep you warm enough carrying that on your back!
[Laughs increase and his splutter finishes with a satisfying clearing of his throat]
Ahhh. We never used to have all that rubbish you know. Mobiles. [Tuts] Smart phones, smart clothes even... A little stroll along the coastal path and you can’t leave the house without your iPack!
[Laughs hysterically and phlegm begins to stick and quiver somewhere between his lungs and throat but will not emerge upwards and so, with a few large breaths and a couple of hacks which sound quite desperate, he decides to save his energy for another attempt later]
Still, good to see young folk seeing a bit of the place. Better out than in on a day like this. Both my boys are stuck in offices all day…
[Coughs unexpectedly and a satisfying piece of phlegm emerges into his mouth and he spits it over the cliff and it sails in the wind]
Laden Traveller: Better out than in.
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