Learning from feedback

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Reflecting on the process that led to my performance of Afonja’s Minstrel last weekend, I am grateful that the event attracted an audience that was interested enough in the subject matter of the piece to want to offer stimulating feedback in the post show discussion and in other ways.

There was a moment several months ago, when an acquaintance asked me what I was up to, and I described the piece I was creating. This person (who was well meaning enough) suggested that I should invest my time and energy in working on a project with a theme that was of more interest to a mainstream British audience. I told him I had decided to “speak my own truth” with this piece. The lesson I learnt from that conversation is that I should keep my projects under wraps until I’m ready to share them with audiences. The audience at Longfield Hall was culturally mixed, with many folks of English or British heritage present.

In the post show discussion, I was able to make it clear that the structure and form of the piece was aimed at finding a halfway house between concert recital and theatrical performance. Some theatrically minded audience members probably wanted the piece to fit into their notions of what “well made theatre” should be. I had considered many of the ideas raised before choosing to approach things in the way I did, but the ensuing conversations were all part of the layers of meaning that the piece could bring to the surface.

An artist’s job, in my opinion should be to stimulate thoughts, feelings and ideas that could possibly inspire others to probe matters relevant to the human condition with a measure of depth. The performance at Longfield Hall gave me the impression that I’m heading in the right direction.

Sometimes it is appropriate to collaborate with others in making an idea come to life. At other times, it works better to focus on the purity of one’s vision, for better or worse. The process has taken me further in the direction of wanting to always have a space and some time to “follow my own nose”.