'Purple Over Pink'
by Paul Lawless
Another show about men. About masculinity. Don't we have enough of those?
This is the niggling thought in the back of my brain. It hovers there and then resurfaces every now and again like a bad case of herpes (once the worry has set in).
I worry feminists will roll their eyes and yawn with a heightened hand-to-mouth gesture. "Move on!" they'll say.
Then I remember I am a feminist. I am also a man. This is a story of crisis. Survival. When I gravitate towards a story, call it hubristic, but I feel it's worth telling. I am firm in this belief. I am firm in the belief that THIS story is important. A story about working class men who perform gender. So much so that they are, more often than not, hyper-masculinised. In some ways this heightened quality is no different to how a drag queen performs femininity. I'm not saying drag queens performing gender is necessarily an issue - they are performance artists. It's part of the remit. They are using gender as a vehicle for truthful expression, here. But through our specific lens of analysis - is gender over performed to our own detriment? I fear - yes. Are we/they aware they're doing do. At times - no, it seems. Is this an acceptance/validation thing? Or is it an intrinsic, physiological thing? Does it relate to class, education, your social circle? Am I classist to assert this belief? Should I be telling this story . . .
I work primarily in working class surroundings. My parents were raised in working class households. My income reflects that of a working class employee at times. It's closer to me than I realise.
I went to buy an arch lever file in Wilkinsons a few weekends ago. They had a selection of different coloured ones on offer. I became fixated on the purple one. Then I experienced a small twinge. A brief but assured alarm siren went off in my head - reminding me that purple is a colour for girls. "But I like purple" I thought. Fuck it. Before I could commit to that particular colour, however, I examined the shelves just to be sure that I wasn't missing out on something else. Another colour that would pass the 'Paul Lawless Colour Litmus Test'. My eyes located the pink file. I detest pink. These days I question this. Is this social conditioning so deeply ingrained that I despise a colour? I feel this maybe the case. In this moment, it seems I am also performing a gender role. File closed (shameful pun).
Ideas, themes flit around my head on a daily basis. Then it comes down to one thing. I remember what it's like to be an audience member. One that is bored and disinterested in what is being presented to them. In those moments I strive to be entertained. For there to be no lulls. For there to be sudden jolt of pace injected in to the piece. I also want to leave the theatre space thinking about things. To be discussing the themes in further detail with the people I attended the show with. For the themes to resonate and for me to question my beliefs. To have my moral compass challenged.
I have this gut feeling that we are teetering on the edge of something special with this project and then reality sits it. The realisation that there are schedules to be arranged and aligned, in-depth discussions to be had on our personal take on the story at hand, experience wildly panicked thoughts on when are we going to get the bulk of it down, money - these logistical issues run away with me at times. The development period is inevitably followed by a period of touring. Releasing the preened beast in to the world. Praying as many people as possible see it. These musings take me back, forth, sideways, up and around. This sort of commitment is certainly not 'half-assed'. There a multitude of things to be managed and yet there has be an environment conducive to successful creative practise . . .
Sorry if this blog entry seems a like 'to-and-fro'. A little sporadic. I'm experiencing one of those weeks where everything comes flying at you at once. This often results in scatty, adrenaline fuelled creative spurts of imaginative play. I promise that my subsequent entry will be more cogent.