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Sunday, May 3

What does it feel like?

When I'm performing, I enter an odd state in which a lot of stuff is going through my head simultaneously. It's something I've considered trying to describe in detail, but could never do so accurately because there's no way to record all these thoughts. I can list the sorts of things I need to think about simultaneously:

- what is the next word of this sentence?
- how am I standing? should I change my body language
- am I feeling ok? am I confident? do I need to give myself a pep talk
- what is the audience feeling like - do I need to speed up or slow down?
- what's the level of noise - how shall I handle a particular distraction?
- where is this set going? which bit shall I choose to do next?
- where do you see yourself in 5 years? (not really)
- how is this really going?
- is anything interesting happening that I could make a joke about?

I think that's most of it. A lot of directorial notes pass through my head as I perform and I try to make the most of the situation I'm in. I drift in and out of consciously doing those things. Sometimes it's just a haze and it's happened, sometimes I'm consciously aware of it. I think the secret is to be able to get lost in the moment (when it's working) and awaken the conscious side just in time to steer the set or fix a looming issue.

I talk of good gigs in terms of "I had all the answers to that one". I say talk, I mean that that's how I feel when a gig worked - nothing came up that I couldn't deal with.

There are tried and tested techniques and put downs for situations that arise, and you can use them at a push. Last night, I had such a situation. What's interesting is that the director in my head, despite my intent to keep things really tight, gave me a direction I wasn't expecting: "corner this heckler into retort X".

I had mentioned that I had kids and someone heckled with "how many?". I eschewed the whole "this isn't a conversation" trick and decided to play along for a few more seconds. I kept the conversation going. Do you have kids? Yes, 2. Do you? Yes, 2. What ages are yours? I put a few more seconds into the whole thing than was necessary so that I could interrupt the whole chat with the old favourite - "anyway, can't talk now, I'm a bit busy... doing this gig". It was totally pre-meditated. I thought it would be funnier than just cutting the moment short.

I can't say whether it was the right thing to do, but it surprised me, that my own internal monologue suggested a game of cat and mouse, rather than just a hit and run retort.

It sometimes makes me wonder who is actually originating these thoughts.

It's me. Of course.


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