Performer Paul Wilshaw reflects on what it has been like putting himself centre stage for Mind the Gap's new touring show, CONTAINED, in an illuminating behind-the-scenes account of this unique production.
My name is Paul Wilshaw. I am a performer at Mind the Gap on the Artist Development Programme.
When Mind the Gap started creating CONTAINED it was my first year with the company and it was a very new style of work for me. Alan Lyddiard who is the director of CONTAINED says “One of the aims of the work has been to create the environment in which the performers have been able to say, in a sincere and complete manner, I am me, I am here and I am fine. It takes a lot of guts to say that and mean it. Many of us find it really difficult to do. It makes us vulnerable and unsure, yet if we can believe it, it can make us powerful and loveable. The Mind the Gap performers have become experts at presenting themselves. Nobody does it like they do it and it is wonderful to watch.”
I found it really hard to say 'I am me, I am here and I am fine'. Once, during rehearsals, I even had to tell the director that I could not say the whole sentence due to the fact I would be lying to everyone. This was me opening myself up to admitting I was feeling vulnerable. Some of it was because I had moved from Dorset to Bradford, which was a huge change for me personally. This also meant I didn’t want to let other people know about me until I knew more about them.
I have learnt a lot about myself especially when doing the one-minute films, which were filmed by Denis Darzacq (award-winning French photographer and film maker). The one-minute films are a brilliant concept because they allow the people being filmed to tell a story personal to them. I told my story in one of them too. It was a chance to pin point one important moment in your life. I chose to tell my story about going to Romania and working in an orphanage. When we told our stories, we were told to focus on the important parts of the story and fit it into one minute of filming. All the stories were filmed in various locations around Bradford. The one-minute films can be seen in a digital exhibition before the show starts.
I personally would like to say a big thank you to Bradford City Football Club who allowed us to film mine and other performers’ one-minute films in their stadium. It was very special to me, as I work at the club as a steward. It was extra special being in the ground with my extended Mind the Gap family all around, watching and finding the best location to film my story in.
In the show you get to see four of the stories half way through the performance, which is brilliant. It is not just a way of giving the performers a break but is included into the work to help create a different atmosphere.
We also had an extra project connected to the one-minute films called The My Story project. As I worked on the one-minute films I had the pleasure of working as a facilitator on this project with another member of Mind the Gap and two members of staff. We had the privilege of working with Unique Voices from Bradford whose stories are very moving and No Nonsense from Wolverhampton whose energy and personalities shone through the camera. You also get to see their one-minute films before the show starts. This was the first time we have collaborated with them and hopefully we will work with them again.
In CONTAINED, Mind the Gap have made a music video called 'I'm Me'. It was composed by Jez Colborne, produced by Si McGrath, directed by Denis Darzacq, filmed by Emilie Flower and performed by members of Mind the Gap. The song is really powerful and you get the feeling that everyone in the music video is proud to say ‘I’m Me’. This is not the only music in this piece but I don't want to spoil it for you.
There is a lot of technical work in this production, which the cast sets up live on stage. This is really impressive and I don't think a lot of companies would have the confidence to do it, but Mind the Gap shows that they believe in the cast they have chosen.
The actors, performers and staff behind and in front of the scenes at Mind the Gap are like a great big family and no one wants to let anyone down. That is what you see in this production of CONTAINED. Dave Searle who is the production manager deserves a massive amount of credit for all the technical side of the production. He has also worked closely with the performers to make sure everyone knows where everything should be plugged into. The cast set the stage, with loud speakers to microphones and even a green screen. Also a great thanks should also go to all the behind-the-scenes staff and volunteers who keep the place going.
What I have learnt as a performer is not to be so much of a closed book. Yes, sometimes it is wise not to let everyone know what is happening in your life but the past is the past. You have to see your mistakes, what has happened in the past and the good times to get on in life. Although the pieces were never meant to be therapy, in an odd way it did become that for me as it made me think about things which have happened in my life. It helped me to write a poem about my nan who died of cancer; it was about how she had brought me up to become who I am today.
What more can I say, if you want emotion, great dancing, brilliant music and the unexpected that something could go wrong with the technical side then this is the show for you.
You can view Paul's one-minute story below: