Last weekend I performed at “I Am Still Your Worst Nightmare”, a platform of experimental theatre, live art and other bouncy fun stuff hosted by Arnolfini and Theatre Bristol. I did a quiet sketch called Janet Gaynor. It was 13 minutes and 44 seconds long.
Astronaut, the work I presented at the same event last year, apparently made people cry (in a good way, I hasten to add. They weren’t tumbling bleary-eyed and snot-nosed towards the fire exits, screaming to be released.) Seems as though Janet Gaynor might have done the same. Fellow performer Ed Rapley even gave me an award, bless ‘im. Little nods like this are all the more gratifying given that this field of work tends to thrive on the unquantifiable and oblique; immediate reactions are rare, sometimes even unwanted. On top of which, at an event like “I Am Still Your Worst Nightmare” most artists are trying out something new and untested, lighting out ill-equipped and without a map. But by most accounts Janet Gaynor managed to a) create an atmosphere and b) tell a story… and those were my principle concerns.
Another fellow performer, James from Action Hero, gave me my favourite feedback of the weekend. “I liked it,” he said, “But I’ve absolutely no idea what it was about.” Reminding me of Samuel Beckett. When Mr Beckett was asked what the hell Waiting For Godot meant, he replied “If I knew, I would have said so in the play.”
Janet Gaynor was inspired by a hefty old scrapbook I uncovered in the back room of a second hand bookshop in Littleborough, Lancashire. It was hidden amongst biographies of Hitchcock and whole swathes of those generic “Hollywood Greats” hardbacks (you know, the oversized ones. The woods are full of ‘em.)
Amongst a room packed full of similar uncatalogued, unpriced volumes, you can imagine a cover like this one standing out: