I am always up for something that will get me out of the house, so Thursday evening saw me in a hi-vis waistcoat escorting ten people wearing headphones and listening to punk to a car park in central Manchester. It was bloody freezing. But I was glad to be there, even if my extremeties were not. I was providing half of the somewhat dubious health and safety contingency (dubbed Jackets One and Two, my being the former) for Rot, a new work in progress by solo performer Josh Coates. And it was worth the freeze.
Now, I am not obliged to say this because I essentially got a free ticket to the show. Firstly, all the tickets were free. Secondly, the hi-vis waistcoat didn’t have pockets. And thirdly, Josh is one of my best mates, so if anyone is going to take the piss out of him online (or off), it’s probably me.
Rot was a departure from the Josh you and I know and love, providing you are one of the people who has seen him out of performance mode after a few pints dancing whimsically to Wuthering Heights. He’s a bit of a loveable idiot. Not idiot because he’s stupid, because he has a brilliant intelligence and a sharp sense of humour. In the sense that he plays the goofball – self-consciously self-deprecating and daft and charming. Childish in the best of ways, I guess. And loveable because he is. He’s a people person. He’s good to chat to. In Rot, Josh was balls-out confidence, leading the audience on a ride of sex and violence and jukebox choices. The humour was sharp and, at points, scathing. The story was tight. And he’s a storyteller, that’s what he does, and it’s a credit to his talent that he had people dancing to Grandmaster Flash in a carpark and then moments later had them staring down the barrel of human futility and abject horror.
Not fun for all the family, but an evening well spent.
I’m not attempting to review this in any way, and by now you know that this is all my opinion. Given that this is a blog and only a few people will read it. But he’s one to watch out for. And if he makes the big time (whatever that is) he can pay me to make tea or something similar.
This is the first post on this thing not about Wonderstruck. Just thought that was worth mentioning. I guess I’m having a stab at some sort of social journalism, but that’s just a name to call it when someone asks me what I’m writing. Because as soon as you say “oh, I’m writing a blog”, people instantly imagine an online diary filled with misplaced teen angst and inspirational quotes against landscape backgrounds. If you say “I do online social journalism”, people at least pretend to be impressed. Or think you’re a bit up yourself and leave you alone. Either way, it’s better than saying you keep a blog. But I thought that continuing Voices of Wonder was apt.
Mine is a voice of wonder, and probably always will be. The world would be a pretty dull place if we didn’t take the time to wonder about things. All those conversations you have at three in the morning with complete strangers about grand concepts of existence would be gone, if there wasn’t the capacity to wonder. No, not the capacity. The need. We need to wonder, to question, to look for things that we don’t understand. Some people want to understand everything. I enjoy knowing that I cannot. I like wondering about things. Even the small things. It’s one of the reasons I dislike smartphones, apart from the fact they aren’t very smart. Don’t know the answer to a question? Hang on, let me Google it. Having an argument? Let’s Google who’s right, let’s ask Siri, the omniscient voice in my pocket. What happened to a good old-fashioned debate about who said that famous quote, what the capital of Mongolia is, which film that actor did one time that I recognise him from? I can’t remember his name or face or hair colour, but you’re wrong. Those were fun conversations,especially if you knew you were right. But now you can check in five seconds or less! The feel of victory is less heady when a search engine confirms it for you.
Every voice should be a voice of wonder. And they have to be, don’t they? Because we will never know everything, and will therefore always be left wondering about some things. And we will always be in awe as well. Whether it’s in awe of the wonders of science or a divine higher power (and who says you can’t have both?), there will always be things to wonder about. That’s why people make art, in all its forms. To ask questions. To wonder why. To not take something at face value, to want to look beneath and beyond.
And not always in a childlike way, because that’s not what we do. Art challenges and questions, and makes people challenge and question in turn. Look, here is a thing. What are you going to do about it? What response are you going to give? If I tell you this, how do you feel? Sometimes, art pushes us past the anaesthesia of the mass media culture and actually makes us feel something. I’m going to introduce you to these people, people like you and me, who like music and sex and just being, and once we’ve established them as tangible human beings, someone’s going to stamp the guy’s head against a kerb and kill him in a car park. And life will go on. And you stare down the barrel of abject mindless violence and you lose a little faith in human kind, but you feel angry and sad and why doesn’t anyone fucking do anything?! But read about it in a newspaper and he’s just another statistic, and you don’t really care at all, do you? No, not really.
Wonder takes different forms for different people. I guess what I’m saying is that a voice of wonder doesn’t have to be childlike admiration. It can be a voice wondering how the hell we got to this?
Anyway. I’m in work at six in the morning. The general public must have their coffee. Enough of this for tonight.
You can follow Josh Coates on Twitter to find out more about his work, if you can put up with his daftness. Do it. @J_JCoates.