Behind Behind the Beat

ABOVE: with Haley McGee in Canada Water Theatre (Photograph by Nick Wright)

In January 2021 I had a week-long residency at Canada Water Theatre as part of my DYCP (Develop Your Creative Practice) Arts Council England project. What emerged from the residency is a solo theatre show called Behind the Beat. I had a week with renowned theatre maker Haley McGee mentoring me and I owe her immense gratitude, because not only was she incredibly encouraging and motivating, but she also brought all her experience putting on solo shows and coaching theatre makers to the table, and had the wisdom of making sure we met up in advance of the residency to discuss material and devise the show. If you’re interested in the process, here’s the story of how Behind the Beat came about…

ABOVE: This is a scene called Touch (Photograph by Nick Wright)

The Story Behind Behind The Beat

In November 2018 or 2019, my friend and long-time collaborator Joe Murgatroyd and I committed to Novel Writing November, where the aim is to write 1000 words a day for the whole month. The approach I took was to write a stream of conscious text (also known as free writing) in one chunk at the start of each day. I think altogether the text I wrote was around 15,000 words. I had a title before I started, and the intention behind Behind the Beat (see what I did there? And there? And there, actually?) was to explore my life and inner world through the lens and metaphor of the drum kit, an instrument I have played since I was three years old. The Behind the Beat text sat on my computer for a few years, and I never read it back, until I started thinking about what to do with it, and brought it to Haley as a springboard for our residency. We worked on different texts (titles in the image below) and the show is basically me trying to set up a drum kit on stage with a lot of tangents, performance and stories woven into it. I’m hoping to do a proper run of the show in 2023.

ABOVE: Post it notes of all the bits and scenes starting to form the structure (Photograph by Nick Wright)

The first meeting with Haley was the read through. We sat on her couch and I read the ENTIRE text to her. It took a few hours over several cups of tea. Some of it is extremely private and exposing so this was a scary process, but luckily Haley is a good friend and an amazing, compassionate listener. After this read through, I then set about picking the parts of the text that stood out and that we felt were dynamic and engaging as theatre. Again, I’m indebted to Haley’s wisdom and experience here. By the time we entered the studio, I had the bare bones of an hour long show, which was so much more than I was expecting to achieve already!

ABOVE: During the Work in Progress sharing of Behind the Beat at Canada Water Theatre, January 2021 (Photograph by Nick Wright)

The show is about one hour long at the moment and I reckon I’ve got about 20 minutes of musical material to incorporate into it and then it’s ready to be put on. Watch this space!