Lincoln Drill Hall

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Risk and creativity

Over five days in September I saw four utterly contrasting performances here in Lincoln.

I was struck by the huge risk the artists took in arriving at their performance and I wondered whether it is only by taking risk that great art is produced.

Marcus Brigstocke, at the Drill Hall, surprised from the start by hiding on stage as we were all chatting waiting for the show to start. He was strongly opinionated, as expected. He challenged  those (few) in the audience who did not share his view. I’m sure wasn’t the only one to take a sharp intake of breath. He then talked very openly about her personal life, laying himself bare; was this not a risk too far?

Getting Better Slowly, also at the Drill Hall, was something completely different. Our program and participation manager, Adam Pownall, produced and acted in a play about the traumatic illness that he had contract a few years ago. Guillain Barre Syndrome in effect means that the body shuts down and then only slowly and with much care begins to wake up. To suffer such an illness is surely bad enough. Adam, though, decided that it needed to be known about and so he told of his experience. Only he didn’t. He worked with a team of people to create a show that communicated the illness; a huge risk. There was a writer, a choreographer, a set designer, a lighting designer, a composer, a director and two wonderful actors who worked together over many weeks to find how best to communicate to an audience just what shutting down and waking so painfully and slowly was like.

Beethoven’s Pastoral must be one of the best known orchestral works. In my teenage I am sure I wore out my LP by listening to it so often. Listening to it again, performed by The Halle in Lincoln Cathedral, I was struck not by its perfection but by the massive risks the composer took in pushing his art to places never previously visited. It is sublime. Looking at the roof of the Cathedral I was reminded not of its perfection but of those places where the line had to be corrected by the builders and where the spire had proved to be a risk too far.

David Starkey visited the Drill Hall to talk about the Tudors. A near full house settle down to familiar territory, although a number of us were pretty sure that some very un-Tudor words and names would be mentioned: Corbyn, Brexit, May. In this we were not disappointed. If we had wanted Tudor as we had heard it before, forget it. This was Tudor quite unlike anything. Politics and parallels. Sex and intrigue. A massive risk of disappointment.

You will not be surprised if I say that in each case the risk played off. I still ponder, though, whether perhaps great performance only comes with risk.

I am reminded of a book I read some years ago, Love’s Endeavour, Love’s Expense, much loved by Bill Ind, former Bishop of Grantham. In effect the book suggests that our world itself is the product of successive risk taking. Expressed a little differently perhaps this is something with which Darwin may not have disagreed.

Taking risk is at the heart of creatively.

And all this in art in Lincoln. Are we not lucky?

Published in the Lincolnshire Echo on 6 October 2016