And Here I Find Myself at The Lowry (no kidding)

My partner and I moved recently. From suburbia to ‘urbia’. From a house to an apartment.

I think like a lot of people about a lot of life choices, a penny dropped, at some point, over the pandemic.

I won’t speak for my partner, Actual Manc, but have sought his blessing to light-touch invade his privacy even by speaking just for myself…but I’ve spent a fair amount of time wondering whether I’ve failed at life’s ‘rules’.

Dark times ‘knowing’ I have, lighter times thinking that I still have but that perhaps made me a rebel.

However I think to be a rebel, there’s a fair amount of pro activity and decision-making involved.

And it wasn’t my/our decision not to have children.

And Here I Find Myself.

Hull-born, Manchester-based Wayne Steven Jackson last night brought the preview of his solo show to The Lowry on Friday night, to a captive audience in The Studio.

I wake up. And I’m aware of being present again, amongst the same walls, and floors, and people. It’s as if my whole past has been condensed into a single moment that feels as though it has only just happened. Solid, impenetrable, unchangeable.

The world has shifted. Laws have been amended, rights instated, and possibilities created. But what if, after all this change, things still don’t work out the way we planned?

After multiple unsuccessful attempts to become a father, a single gay man, on the brink of turning 40, questions how he ended up here, whose rules he has been following, and, most importantly, what happens next

As a preview ahead of a tour, I don’t want to be too explicit in my description of the performance, but the show certainly starts on a comedic note.

Via pinned up paper and projection, an unknown ‘voice’ gave instructions to our performer.

The Rules.

Jump.

Climb

Hide.

No that’s wrong.

Milestones came into play. Milestones (or lack of) were what caused my own crisis of confidence one 31 December in a Lake District camping pod. Accompanied by my partner, champagne, the contents of the M&S deli range and a pending new year, I reflected on life and panicked that I had no markers in place for the next 12 months. And I felt more…redundant than I ever had.

Milestones can be anchoring, they can also be hindering if not set by yourself or relevant to your life.

Wayne describes historical milestones as dictated by changing laws, and where he found himself at those times, setting the scene of his bedroom beautifully by the colours of his bedding, the pop culture iconography on his walls and his own approach to his sexuality and life at that time.

Life’s expectations bring their own specific milestones too. As Wayne alludes, meet someone, get married, have children…but then those parental milestones can give a blueprint for what follows. Move to area dictated by catchment area, first day of school, secondary school, exams, university, grandchildren…

But what if it hasn’t happened. Perhaps never will.

What are the alternative milestones? And here was the big one, did I even need any?

And so back to the stage and with a whimsical soundtrack, and repetition of movement and direction complimenting the rhythmic nature of the performance, incremental changes begin to creep into both the direction and approval of the unseen voice.

As the performance reaches a crescendo, whimsy increasingly turns to the more sinister, approval of ‘the voice’ turning to disapproval, streamers turning to shreds, Wayne’s messaging becomes all too real, more difficult to see, to hear.

But as they say, the brightest days come after the storm and once you start to separate out the inner voice from the outer, the only acceptance that matters, only then can you start to tear up the rulebook and perhaps (in my case) move away from that ‘desirable’ but wholly claustrophobic catchment area, sit on your potentially dangerous balcony, and heal in your own time.

Art should challenge you, tap into your feelings and explore your own take on life.

And whilst I apologise for potentially making this review more about myself than intended, I’m grateful to the artist for generously channelling his life into his art, and for validating my own reflections and thoughts, causing me to share here more than I have ever done in 9 years.

Thank you Wayne Steven Jackson 😊 Oh, and when the show tours, go and see it, it’s fantastic!

Read more about the artist at:

https://www.waynestevenjackson.co.uk/home

For more upcoming shows at The Lowry, head to

https://thelowry.com/

Written and performed by Wayne Steven Jackson

Videographer: Studio 91 Media

Score: Jack Fleming

Original Music: Katherine Myles

Digital Dramaturgy: Anna West

Movement Consultancy: Simon Jones

Makeup: Elise Gilbert

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