Wednesday, 15 June 2005

Deep Breath

I'm still tired but need to blog to vent some angst before I rest up for tomorrow's battles.

Yesterday's premiere of Human Shrapnel, as you may have guessed, went damn well and I got a bit drunk and basked in the glory like a human shaped seal. Today was somewhat different and very distressing.

The matinee was fine, I was a little under par as I hadn't prepared well due to the theatre not being ready but it went well and the audience seemed to like it. The evening show however left me crying with rage and frustration. I'll explain...

For those of you that don't know, Human Shrapnel is a one man show that I've created with ex-servicemen from past conflicts and soldiers currently serving in Iraq. It exists to shed some light on what happens to men when they leave the army, especially those from a working class background (which is much of the British Army and the US military I believe). It doesn't make for pretty viewing as it doesn't pull any punches and it asks the audience to think about their own attitudes to conflict and veterans; as well as reflect upon the circle of violence many soldiers are trapped in.

I've put a lot of work into this play because it matters to me, I care about those that have laid down their lives for us, those that fight so we don't have too. I may not agree with the reasons for war but those that fight it I respect and Human Shrapnel is dedicated to them and their struggle.

Now, I break myself in two on that stage, I work my guts out and give my all to tell the story, to do it justice and tonight all I got from the audience was cold indifference as I slogged my fucking guts out. Now I may be wrong but I've been acting for a while now and you can't help but feel an audience and this was one way traffic, me to them and them just not buying into what I was doing. I felt humiliated, like I'd bared my soul and they'd objectively decided it was rubbish.

I sat in the dressing room and smashed it to fucking bits: I lay myself out there for you and all I ask is you take my hand and come with me.
Now, I know what you're thinking: 'Maybe Human Shrapnel is a pile of shit DHG? Get over yourself!' Maybe it is. All I know is a lot of people who saw it last night or the matinee today, people who work in the industry or the teachers at my school, people who know their theatre, have told me that it's an outstanding piece of work and that I perform it excellently. And I know it's good and that it contains a story that needs to be told.

I tell you, it's really knocked my confidence and my priority is to build that back up and move on to tomorrow's shows and hold my head high and plough on into that audience and put my heart out there again for it to be stamped on.


  1. It sounds to me like you hit the correct nerve, and I think you are misinterpreting the vibe.

    That's how people react when the real thing is introduced to them. We go through our lives insulated from the reality of war, even (mostly) from the reality of street crime. And I'm sure the majority of your audience does not come from the same economic background as the majority of veterans.

    People don't know how to react when something powerfully real juts into their lives. It may be they were expecting the usual patriotic propaganda, and were faced with realism, and the grim truth that soldiers die so that rich bastards like themselves can get richer.

    Them "deciding" it was rubbish: if they did, it was as a defensive mechanism, to avoid feeling the shame of being tacit partners in crime with those who abused the good faith of the Law, and manipulated government resources to start this "war."

    When you described Human Shrapnel before, it sounded like you were breaking ground, trying desperately to not present an antisocial message, nor an anti-patriotic message.

    Instead, it sounded like a citizen protesting the frivolous use of military resources (primarily human lives), and the commission of acts of war, in lieu of distinct threats against national security.

    To remember the pact between soldiers and the Crown, that the risks of war will be freely taken, but should be reserved for just war.

    It is probably that your audience didn't decide it was rubbish, but rather had to resolve the uncomfortable feelings you stirred in them. After all, it was easy to be a hippie after the anti-Vietnam campaign was well-established.

    But what about before 1968? What about in 1965 when Vietnam was a popular war? Where were the plays decrying the waste of life and resources then?

    I think you're on the right track, and the question is whether you have the confidence to keep it there until you're either run off the stage, made head of a meaningful anti-war movement, or elected to office.

    Just remember, there are those forgotten veterans, who are mistreated and spoken against during peace, who appreciate the fact that someone has the balls to tell their story while Iraq is still a mainstream conflict.

    Stick with it, and you will be called visionary.

  2. Keep your chin up. I;d come to see it if I could get there, but it's a little far for me. My writing's been failing for years, but hey, what else am I going to do?

  3. Hope the next show goes better.

    So ... I've always wondered about 'ONE MAN SHOWS' - I find it interesting that THAT side of the stage/ theater decides to break tradition and go 'ONE MAN' or 'ONE WOMAN' and the other side (us, the audience) is still in vast numbers.

    Though I understand it's not very practical, has there ever been (and I would like rights to this term, if it ever gets big) a 'ONE to ONE' show. Where someone's ONE MAN/WOMAN SHOW, is performed to an audience of one?

    and to you personally, would you rather experience what you did (in terms of the high and low of a crowd), or perform in front of ONE person, and have them appreciate and 'get' the message.

  4. As a former stand-up, I always thought the worst that could happen is that the audience doesn't laugh at your material. I'm guessing that what you experienced might be worse.

    I believe that the good Dr., is correct in his judgement here.

    But you're not always right, Doc.


  5. Sounds to me that you put a lot of emotion into a small amount of time mate. It's gunna have an effect on you...keep on keeping on!

  6. Daniel - it is always a risk with political pieces as you are so close to others' opinions. However, don't despair! I love this quote from Brecht:

    "We need a type of theatre which not only releases the feelings, insights and impulses possible within the particular historical field of human relations in which the action takes place, but employs and encourages those thoughts and feelings which help transform the field itself."

    Even if the audience hated it, the sheer fact that you have stirred emotion makes it a vital and important piece of art.

  7. Chin up, Daniel. If that crowd couldn't see your vision...Fuck 'em, the next crowd will. I wish I could come see it, but I have a distance issue. Being a vet (served during the first gulf war) myself, I am sure that I would be into the piece.

  8. Ouch. I know how you feel. I preform with my band every so often, and when you have an audience who just doesn't respond whilst you're playing (or acting) your heart out it really kicks you in the teeth. It sucks.

  9. Forget about them. The other people "got it". Maybe they just didn't know how to react. If it is from your heart it can't be wrong. I wish I could see it.

  10. Thanks for your support guys, I had a mini crisis yesterday but today all is well and good. Today's crowds bought into it whoelsale and i discovered that I mis read the auidence last night a little as I received an email of thanks from a veteren.

    cultureshock, one on one pieces have been done and are quite common in modern theatre work.

    It's all good!

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