Monday, 21 May 2012

Hymas&Lewis: Seasick?

photo: Richard Davis
Last Friday night Hymas&Lewis performed at the Spotlight club, a wonderfully welcoming live literature and music night in Lancaster, which provides a great space to try new work out, experiment, dip toes into the waters of uncertainty. Which is what we did.

When we perform we always have strong reactions from audiences. I think they're often quite surprised at how we work together, a bit like Marmite and peanut butter sandwich: unexpectedly harmonious. 

I love this unexpectedness. I love what we do. In fact I love working with Steve Lewis. Here are some reasons why:

1. We muck about together to make pieces, so throwing away stuff is easy. And the stuff we keep always has some playful quality to it even if it's not immediately apparent.
2. We laugh and laugh.
3. It's a bit scary, as some of this mucking about involves improvising and even improvising in front of just one other person is exposing.
4. Reading/reciting my poems with Steve on an instrument forces me to listen to every word, to hear it with a precision and resonance I may not have done previously.
5. This leads to a strong edit.
6. And then Steve cries 'too many words' and we cut again. Cut cut cut. Space is what we create.
7. Steve's 'instruments' range from guitar, shruti, spring drum, accordian, elastic bands, to his voice
8. There is a constant push/pull between sound and sense
9. We begin most 'rehearsals' with a procrastinatory chat (usually initiated by me) that must be helpful in some way. If not to clear the decks to open up creative pathways, it gets shit off my chest to someone who isn't involved in the rest of my life.
10. Along the way Steve has introduced me to Sergy Starotsin, Adam Philips, Susanna and the Magical Orchestra, Tunng, The Cave (Steve Reich's masterpiece about Abraham) and more, much more.
11. What we make is unlike anything I'd do by myself, and yet it feels like it is a natural extension of how I perform by myself. An extension. Yes.
12. How there's always someone in the audience who responds to what we're doing by laughing and I enjoy this manifestation of emotion, whether or not what we're doing is supposedly 'funny'.
13. And there's always someone in the audience who finds our creations totally transporting, and comes up afterwards to tell us with a strange shine to their eyes.
14. I finish each set with a wonderful sense of elation at having remembered everything we planned and composed to do.   

We're currently working on a longer piece we've temporarily called Seasick.
Steve writes our blurbs and this is what he said about it:

Sarah Hymas & Steve Lewis(aka Deep Cabaret) demonstrate the difference between a deficit and a debt with swashbuckling material and neo-mixed, self-sampled, mash-ups methodologies. The zygotian pairing of poet and voice will perform a livetease direct from Seasick, their still-developing new show about trust & fear, weather & philosophy and shipwrecked shanties. Comes complete with spring drum and shruti.

Let me know if you'd like to hear when we're testing the waters with it again...

Monday, 14 May 2012

Innocent Afloat vi

6. OCD?

This is (vi) in a series on the voyage that could only have been my first. Part i is here

Relief at imminent landfall was swept away with a sudden squall, unnoticed as we gawped at the sight of land, and floated in our private fantasies of whatever that promised. Our repaired sails blew out. Quite a feat since we were sailing on the second jib, approximately a square metre in area. A mile or so out of Rarotonga's harbour, we hoisted our bright orange storm sails and listed into it, tying up alongside a rusting Indonesian trawler that looked only slightly less seaworthy than us.

While in part grateful to be able to step on land, I was buzzing, elated. We’d made it. We’d lost three sails, taken twice as long than expected, eaten tinned soup and beans for the last week, had two stanchions snap, and lost the heart and mind of one crew member; but we’d made it, without anyone falling over board, without hitting a tanker, without starving.

On the other hand, I’d learnt to steer through a storm, master the Sat Nav, read charts, plot positions, change sails, repair sails, cook without puking, chop veg without losing a finger, function on three hours sleep, translate clouds, recognise albatross, do very little for hours at a time, operate around other people in a confined space.

In short, I'd found I could rely on myself as an individual and as part of a team in a way I'd never experienced before. I had used body, brain and spirit to travel approximately 1600 miles, and all three had held together, proved trustworthy, connected and capable.

I was hooked.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Innocent Afloat v

5. Routine, the Goddess of Sanity

This is (v) in a series on the voyage that could only have been my first. Part i is here

A week into uninterrupted curvature, air and light (even night glows at sea), our group and individual survival (mentally and phyiscally speaking) of boat life depended on the three hour shifts Les, Chicako and myself operated. Sylvia emerged once or twice a day to check on progress and feed.

Day and night were irrelevant markers to sleep, providing only a different view and colour palette.

While I could have relinquished external waymarks to get me through a day, relying on the state of my stomach and mind to decide on meal- and bunk-times, this would not have been helpful for crew cohesion. Already a nasty, unspoken crack existed between us three and Sylvia. We needed an agreed normality within which we could co-operate; enabling irritation, doubt, insecurity and resentment to bubble passively beneath. Routine, structure, call it ‘civilisation’, encouraged repression of these more corrosive motivations.

By week two our common goal of ‘land’ was only commonality we had. And routine was the way we were most likely to reach this.

The three hour shifts of watch then rest were punctuated by lesser rotations of cooking, drying gear, repairing sails, Dead Reckoning our position, watching out for drifting containers. Breaking up the day this way prevented my focus from seeing beyond the next nine hours. The jigsaw of A4 charts disabled any vision of the passage in its entirety. The mundanity of practical jobs derailed any critical analysis, demanding concentration on the most basic activity: cutting bread without shedding blood, washing sufficiently using only minimal water, helming so the boat progresses whatever the wind strength, tying a reef rather than a granny knot, fixing coordinates from the Sat Nav to the relevant A4 chart section…

My navigation skills never really consolidated. It took us another 17 days, 24 in total, to cover the 1600 miles to Rarotonga in the Cook Island archipelago. Our first sight of the island was at daybreak, a jagged lump of grey barely distinguishable from the heaving sea surface, except for being slightly darker. And it didn’t move.