Reflection on Particles

I’m back from Edinburgh and returned to the town that never grins. I woke up at 2pm after getting about 14 hours sleep and only in the past 10 minutes I’ve decided to put clothes on. 

Tomorrow I’ll probably do nothing and the day after that I may venture out to the shops. No idea really. I don’t have much lined up for the next few weeks which is a really odd feeling. I’ve spent the past 2 weeks living the way I want to in the future. It excited me meeting all these people and sharing theatre I made with audiences. It cemented that desire of to wanting to become a theatre maker/performer full time.

I’m at the stage in my career where , in my opinion, I’m not at the level to apply for grants from the arts council and other funding bodies, not had enough exposure to have a venue get behind me to help me develop some work and not in the best town to develop new work. I believe I’m still a bedroom artist, sat by a desk continually writing scraps that may end up in a show. When I had a rough version of Particles I just wanted to get it out and perform it . I knew it was rough and ready but I felt it was better to get it out there publicly then keep it locked behind closed door and show it to close friends. I wanted to take the risk and present it to a fairly objective audience. 

It feels akin to the stand-up scene. Performers put themselves out there for quick 10 minutes of material with only a fair judgment to the jokes they’ve written. Its the audience that dictate the performer. They transform their material to the audience. 

Audiences have always been in the forefront of the theatre I’ve made so this style of just going to odd venues around europe and peoples flats in edinburgh works in my favour. I get to meet lots of people who have no prejudgment on my work and I do Particles for them.

This means that each show is different. After I’ve performed I go home and do a little assessment on what worked or what I should try out next time. This has meant improvising entirely new sections in front of audiences to scraping some of the parts I loved doing in the past. I think the next step I need to take is to get Particles nice and tight without feeling dislocated from the material. I have a few gigs lined up for Particles over the next two months. So it’s proper rehearsals I think as opposed to sitting in my room and trying my best to think of something funny to say. 

To anyone who saw me and invited me into their flat in Edinburgh - Thank you. The experience has made me feel  warm and welcome to this whole performance shbang. I feel like I’m slowly getting to a style I think suits me and that wouldn’t have been possible without you guys inviting me into your homes. You have all allowed me to experiment with this material and provided great feedback. Now to keep in the spirit of things if anyone is free this Friday I’m doing some rehearsals in Manchester. Saw the show and want to pop in and give us some feedback then drop us a message on joshuajcoates@gmail.com.

Thanks everyone

Josh

Wanted : People wanting an alternative Edinburgh Fringe experience

I’ve been touring a piece of theatre recently. It’s a one man show that I’ve performed in community halls, empty meeting rooms and a back yard in a block of squats.  It’s called Particles. People have enjoyed it and I’ve received a lot of great feedback for it. One of the unanimous thoughts that have come from this however has been “Are you taking this up to Edinburgh for the fringe?”

I’m not. I didn’t have my show ready when deadlines were approaching. I was tempted to jump the gun and go for it anyway but no. I was busy doing something else on deadline day. Probably something to do with watching the entire series of Always Sunny in Philadelphia or drinking too much coffee. Either way I missed the deadlines.

Since coming back from the tour and being caught up in Fringe excitement I’ve started to get a bit envious of all those performing. I’m Assistant Directing a show that’s going up so I still get to indulge in the Fringe but I want to perform.

So I thought of an idea.

I want to perform Particles in new and unique spaces. I think the piece suits being performed anywhere to anyone. I want to share what I’ve made with you. This could be from performing to mates in your living room or to family in your garden for your annual bbq.  If you have a make shift/DIY venue you are running maybe it might be of interest of you as well.

If you want I will come over to your house/flat/digs in Edinburgh ( and possibly Glasgow, I want a reason to visit) and perform Particles for you and your mates. All I ask for is for me to put out a bucket at the end of the performance for donations*.  

I’m also going to try and make each performance a bit more unique. This may include bringing a friend with me to do some music or another type of performance. I’ll try and make it a bit of a party. 

I’ll be up in Edinburgh from the 12th August until the end of the festival so if you want an intimate and personal fringe experience.  The show is very low on tech as there is only one sound cue. Anyone could do it.

Dates - 12th-26th August

Where - Up to you.

When - Aiming to do AM and PM performance. Maximum 3 a day

Who - Make a party of it. The show works well when there are more than 4 people attending.

 

If you are interested then drop me an email on joshuajcoates@gmail.com

Below are details I’m giving to venues across the country about the show so you know what you are potentially getting yourself in for.

It’ll be excellent to share this experience with you. Thank you for reading.

 

The Show

Particles is a humorous,playful one man performance piece about hope and retracing decisions that create who we are.

 

Standing alone on stage with just a microphone, Josh tells and retells a story about a man who faces decisions that will affect how his day will turn out. With each retelling, a different path is chosen and the story expands into a glorious cacophony of love and chaos.  Between each story, Josh interacts with audience members to demonstrate how their decisions can affect their worlds; from deciding their favorite rice-based dish to their involvement in the creation of the universe. It’s in these decisions change can be made. By retelling stories, Josh links the audience to the world he creates on stage and,with child like glee, encourages the audience to join him in an attempt to change the world.

The performance style plays with the reliability of the storyteller. The initial story proves underwhelming, so the storyteller manipulates his central characters’ actions to create more devastating situations. This manipulation extends to the audience, with Josh placing audience members in playful situations, using stand-up comedy techniques, there are many variations in this interaction.  In one example, Josh represents the meeting of the first two particles and the creation of the universe by building a relationship between two audience members.  What starts as a romantic moment is complicated when he blames the couple for all humanity’s wrongdoings.

Particles does notpreach to audience about how each action a human can make can affect the grander scale of humanity but warms them to the idea that their unique perception on the world can affect society to various degrees.

This show talks about the opportunity we have to stand up and reflect on the society that surrounds us. It’s a call to arms to those who want to change what they see but don’t know how. To wake up a realise how intricately linked we are to the earth we live on and to acknowledge that we have the possibility to change it. This show is about hope. The hope a performer has in their audience and the hope an audience can have when they walk out of the theatre after the show.

The show has recently been presented at the Gregson Centre,Lancaster International Performance Festival at Chapter Arts, Cardiff and the Progkunstfetsivalen,Oslo June . Particles will next be performed at Beacons Festival in August 2014 as part of the Invisible Lecture program.

 

Josh Coates is a theatre maker from the grey side of Bolton, England, who explores the role of the storyteller in contemporary performance. He has worked alongside Blast Theory, Daniel Bye and Belarus Free Theatre. Currently, Josh is working with Curious Monkey on their play Beats North which will be premiering at the Edinburgh Fringe. He is co-founder of performance company and band Tin Tin and an associate artist with LEAP (Lancaster Emerging Arts Platform). Josh has presented work in Manchester, Newcastle and London but has yet to perform in Bolton. This breaks his little heart.

Testimonials

 

Absolutely loved how he took a potentially serious issue and poked fun at it. The energy was limitless and so engaging to watch as an audience member; felt completely and utterly immersed the whole time

-        Audience member, Lancaster

Josh Coates seizes the stage with all the energy, confidence and imagination of a big kid. What makes his performance is the ease with which he takes the audience with him on his thought-provoking flights of fancy. He enjoys it, and so do we.

- Audience member , Lancaster

Particles is a bright and determined work from a skilled and thoughtful writer and performer. The audience were intrigued and quickly followed Josh through this provoking and imaginative performance. 

-        James Tyson, Director of International Performance Festival Caridff

Josh is growing very quickly as an artist, making engaging work which is innovative in both form and content. Particles skilfully blends story-telling and comedy in a distinctly contemporary manner

-        Leo Burtin, Creative Producer of Live at Lica

Well done to @J_JCoates for his performance of Particles tonight! Thoroughly enjoyed it!!

-        @bosley_matthew

Particles last night by @J_JCoates was fantastic. Super warm and friendly show. Felt very caring.

-        @mrjvarney

Press

http://www.walesartsreview.org/international-performance-festival-cardiff/

-        Review for Particles at Chapter Arts in the Wales Art Review

 

http://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/entertainment/11279728.Bolton_theatre_performer_to_star_at_art_festival_in_Norway/

-        Article about Josh in The Bolton News

 

Cheers and thanks for reading this pretty large post

Josh 

 

*The reasons I ask for donations is that I might need to buy travel to the where you want me to perform and also I buy cans of beer for the performance which I then hand out.image

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River of FUN!dament

Last night I saw Matthew Barney’s epic River of Fundament and had one of the best experience in a theatre I’ve had in ages. However, it wasn’t because what was on the screen. 

((Possible spoilers…maybe. Also if anyone can find a link of the Bullfighters Knife song please send it me. It gave me chills. Anyway. On with the blog))

Quick summary : River of Fundament is a 6 hour long film-cum-opera that circle around the theme of death, rebirth and legacies ( I think anyway ) and centres around the wake of late writer Norman Mailer. It’s a bit rude and crazy and at times hauntingly beautiful. The music mixes contemporary opera with an R&B number and one that had lots of ukuleles in it, possibly the first time for a while in a theatre I didn’t cringe at the site of those little wooden bastards ( of which I’m a proud father of one). Tempted to say it’s this decades Einstein on the Beach but that may ruffle some feathers. Most importantly, I loved it. I wanted to tell everyone about it today. I kept dropping it in to conversations I was having with friends. It tended to disrupt the flow of our chats as the usual response was “why the fuck did you see that?”

I went because of twitter. I know it’s a very 21st century thing to say but I did so tough shit. I have no preconceptions about what it was going to be like so I thought I might as well take the plunge. People who I admire were discussing it online and some people who I think are funny also liked it. Kinda felt obliged to go it a bizarre way.

I walked in to the Colosseum Box Office to get a ticket.

Box Office attendant 1”It’s 6 hours long and there are scenes of a graphic nature”

Box Office attendant 2 ” WOOOP. Which we all love”

This was my first interaction with the piece. People in the box office were openly discussing it. Albeit in a potentially sarcastic way, it was still exciting.

I took my seat to a relatively packed house. There was enough room to change seat for a better view but still crowded enough to feel you were a part of something. As people were taking their seats a lot of people were discussing how they had heard of it. Some of them life long Barney fans, some because of his relationship with Bjork and some because they were curious. They were openly discussing this. I don’t why that got me excited but it did non the less. I’ve never walked into a theatre before and been greeted by the trembles of excitement for what was about to happen and to why they wanted to come. Except when Kitson comes to town. Everyone is always excited for Kitson. 

As the lights dimmed I look across where I was seated. The audience glowed from the light of the screen. A few smiles are shared and people nuzzle into their partner. Getting comfy for the ride.

People shared laughs, squirms and bewildering glances as the first act went on. 

When the intermission started everyone ran outside for air or some food and were desperate to either ring a friend to tell them what they thought of it so for and to claw at twitter with their opinions. People were sharing this experience. A man asked me what was going on so I gave him my programme to read throughout the intermission, a  woman asked me how I was getting on with the show and another guy joined in with my chuckle about the packed lunch he had brought. People were in this room sharing River of Fundament. Either negatively or positively. It didn’t matter because we were all going through this together. This carried on throughout. Someone was sketching things they were seeing and shared them with me during the second intermission. They were really beautiful.

Nights like last night reminded me why I love the theatre. I could write a paragraph writing “OMG THE THEATRE LOVE IT” But instead I just want to point you into the direction of a.smiths commonwealth which is just here - http://vimeo.com/49171548

This, in a way, sums up what I experienced at River of Fundament. We all came into this big space for a reason , some of us found a true reason that will resonate with us for a long time and some of us were disappointed and could only take away shitty dildo’s.

Curbed My Enthusiasm

I’m a passionate man. Talk to me about a book I’ve read or an album I’ve listened to and if I’ve liked it, even the smallest amount, I will give you a full on experience of my passion for it.

I lost it for a few weeks. It was like trying to swirl bits of beard trimmings down the sink.  The thing I loved turned into a job. Now that shouldn’t be something that devastates me but, in a way, it did.

I’m talking about my enthusiasm for theatre. It was around April time and I felt drained. I’d be making theatre for the past 4 years non stop. Either in the comfort of my university or taking those long strides into theatres around the country. I was sat at my nans house drinking a cup of tea and playing a game which involved me creating a game development tycoon when it hit me. I just didn’t really want to step back into a rehearsal room and make stuff. Be it a play or a solo show. I just couldn’t be bothered. It might be out of laziness but I no longer felt it was important to make the shows I wanted to make. I was disheartened with it all.

About 2 and half weeks ago I sat in a café in Manchester and wrote a play. It was only a very rough draft of a 15/20 minute thing but It felt alright. I’d spent the previous 3 weeks sitting on my arse telling myself I should write it but instead sat and watched entire series of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia instead. Not the greatest way to spend my time ( even though Always sunny is fucking excellent).

I took the script into the rehearsal room with my mate Jake and we started putting on it’s feet. Doing fun stuff with it. Then as the week progressed it began clicking into place. I started feeling excited again. It felt like when you’d dislocated your shoulder a bit and you need someone to pop it back in. We decided on something that fit aesthetically with the form and content, began experimenting and then showed a few friends. They liked it. They encouraged us both to push it further. So we did. And we made a scratch version of a show called Taste of Water.

I couldn’t stop talking about it. When my mum asked me about it I think I subjected her to full on lectures about how someone could critically analyse the show and how we’ve found it hard to define what we’ve made. It made me giddy that no one could turn to us and say “ oh yeah that was a (insert either play/production/devised show or other terms for pieces of theatre)”.

We took it to Camden Peoples Theatre as part of the UKRIP scratch night and it went down rather well from what I can gather. Again people struggled to give a name of what we made. Some people compared it to Sam West and his work that diffused performance art with playwrighting in New York in the 70’s. Some one described it socialist agtiprop theatre. I don’t really know what that last one means but I like how it sounds. The giddiness of possibly creating something new excited me. I’m not saying I’ve created a new form of theatre but there is a possibility that Jake and I brought something people hadn’t seen for a while.

I found my enthusiasm again by working on a piece I genuinely believe in. I hate it when I decide to do a project but after a while it begins to feel like work. That shouldn’t be the case for something you love.

We’ll be working on a Taste of Water a bit more over the next year. Which really excites me. Another project to keep an eye out on for ( and which I think my next blog post may be about or at least one in the future) Is the Wonder Project by Dan Bye with Sarah Punshon and Boff Whalley. I won’t talk too much about it because it’s still a bit of a secret as to what it is. But, again, that excites me. Also I was in Birmingham this weekend with Ideastap for a Complicite workshop where I met some of the most enthusiastic people working in theatre at the moment. That rainy Sunday filled me up with a child like glee at the prospect of collaborating with them in the future. I don’t want Sunday to have been the last time I work with any of them.

A big thank you to everyone at Camden Peoples Theatre and especially Anna and Brian. Both of you were so warm and welcoming it made Jake and I feel at home. Also thank you to Allan Taylor and The Conker Group for sharing their work with us. I’m, buzz word of the blog, excited to see where they develop and what journeys they take.

I want to become more of a blogger so expect more of these. I’ve done this one is a bit of a rush so it’s a bit incoherent. But to cut a long-ish blog short – Don’t do theatre just as a job. You came to it as a passion and with such enthusiasm you should only do projects that fill you with that. If the things you choose to do don’t then maybe reconsider why you are doing it.

For more info about the pieces shown at the UKRIP festival follow these folks on twitter.

@TinTinTheatre

@CamdenPT

@TheConkerGroup

@Allan_Taylor

 

Why Theatre Matters to Me.

I’ve been asked to think why theatre matters recently. I have no idea why this question hasn’t been directly aimed to me before but today it has. It may have been asked before but not as directly. It’s stunned me a little bit.

I’m sat writing this at the Royal Exchange in Manchester. The theatre that is closet to my heart and mind. It forms the part of my body that connects my emotions with my thoughts. There is a scientific name for this. For me it’s the Royal Exchange.

I’m sat drinking a pretty well crafted flat white with a copy of Britannia Waves The Rules (Current production on at the moment) by my side. Unfortunately I don’t get to see the production so I’d thought I’d pick up a copy. My friend hasn’t stopped going on about it. It makes going to the pub a bit awkward as I can’t join in on his enthusiasm.  He knows that I’d like it because he’s seen me write a play that directly asks about what a “Great Britain” is. He’s seen me panic at the thought I was being too preachy and that I haven’t given Wales a good enough voice. He said this might help. I hope it does.

I chose to write about why theatre matters to me here because this is where I learned how to enjoy and create theatre. I remember coming here when I was not that much younger and initially questioned why the theatre matters. I didn’t ask it as direct. I just simply asked why people enjoy it. I had never really been to a theatre before, except to see the panto at the Bolton Albert Halls, so I didn’t understand. I was lucky enough to see The Tempest with Pete Posstliewait in it. It was stunning and it clicked right there that I wanted to be involved in someway. I enjoyed it and could see why others did too.

It’s in this theatre I saw a schoolboy from stockport shoot his classmates and a woman preach newly found liberal values to her family of famers. It was here race was questioned when it comes to family values and here when a man shot a seagull and it come crashing down from the rafters of the theatre onto a beach. I saw different sides of the world here. I saw cultures that weren’t mine shared to an audience that sat directly in front of them. Sometimes these cultures clashed but that’s what makes theatre exciting. These experiences are rare when walking around the street unless you stop people in their tracts and demand to here the conflicts in their neighborhood.

I’m sat facing the space ship looking round theatre and relishing in the nostalgia of this theatre . I’ve taken girlfriends here. I’ve bumped into friends here. I’ve seen my teachers from high school here getting drunk before seeing a show about bingo.

It’s now it clicks why theatre matters to me and the first answer goes back to when I was young.

I was curious and wanted to find the answer to a question. Why do people enjoy this? Being 14 I found a simple answer. This curiosity is what makes theatre matter. It may be naïve curiosity that initially leads you here but that’s me as a 14 year old theatre goer. Peoples curiosity can lead to them writing plays or directing productions. It was curiosity that led to Simon Stephens writing Punk Rock (what would happen if a school shooting happened in Britain?). He asked a question and wrote a play about it. The theatre offers you a chance to ask a question and not feel disappointed about not getting an answer. You experience the thought process in some way or another. The thoughts you have as you watch a character do something to another or the thought process of “if we throw a fake dead seagull from the roof would that get a laugh?”. Some of these questions can be deep and explore the darkest corners of human thought. Some are just daft questions and probably involve the line “Can we get away with that?” You are sharing this process.

I’ve asked myself similar questions when making theatre in all sense, when writing, directing and performing. It’s this curiosity towards the world outside I make work and it’s in the theatre where I try and address them. I don’t have to do this as just a theatre maker as well. I do it as an audience member. This is what attracts me to the place. This is why it matters to me.

Theatre matters because it lets me explore the questions I ask. I’ll probably never get the answer but this doesn’t bother me. It excites me. 

Fall

Here’s a poem about stuff. I think I know what it’s about and I will tell you what I think it’s about. But if I do I’m lying. No fucking clue. 

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Pepper pea soup on the table

Clinging onto a precipice

Shining shimmers placed on the wall

The spoon reflection stays upside down

The look upon the face of god

As Pegasus buckaroos

Shins splintered on a mountain

Wings shattered in the snow

Pomegranate pips for pupils

Gleaming like enchanted rubies

Glaring through a stained glass window

Of the sheds bursting inferno

Cabbage patch kids have grown a cropper

Molded eyelids shut together

Waiting to get paralyzed

Take the red one twice a day

A decorators painted turquoise

Birthday suit stain remover

The lino matches his expression

Plain and rigid covered in patterns

DNA bursting out a test tube

Mother father please forgive her

A regret to tempt failure

With revision I’ll improve

Lovely sprouts punctured tires

Patient on the hard shoulder

Wellies holes with puddle toes

A congestion of ships awaits

Smiling inappropriately

Sensing schadenfreude

Gleeful hiccups of laughter

Of times we all fucked up