The Journey of an Idea: The Cycle Play (Working Title)... written in 2016 / by Simon Jones

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Three years ago Jenni Jackson showed me a wonderful short video by Jonas Mekas. It was a trailer for his full length cinema piece A Happy Man. I was blown away by it and the thoughts it sparked in me. Questions relating to our memory and how we mix ingredients to generate new or fictional memories; what we see in front of us compared to what we remember. And then maybe how I could manipulate people in remembering something fictional! Basically lying to them! Ha!

I then read the book, The Secret Race by Tyler Hamilton. It was all very coincidental that I read the book and watched the film at the same time, but I felt there was something in both. The Secret Race is all about blood doping in cycling, Lance Armstrong and Tyler Hamiltons experience in Lance's team. So I wanted to make a show about blood doping, endurance cycling and memory. Big stuff and probably too much.

I was at the RSC doing a show with some time during the days for myself. So I decided to use that time to test out the ideas. I generated a durational movement piece, a clown piece and something more like story telling. All three seemed to fit with an audience watching a man destroying himself in endurance. I liked the thought of that.

So I started to think that maybe the piece was about that. About an endurance test. With the audience as witness, or collaborators; that they are complicit in that work. That they are responsible for my well being. To push them into a place where they want to tell me to stop.

Then I got other work and had to put all this to one side.

Until I was invited to direct something at East 15 Acting School. So Picked it up again and turned it into a 16 person dance piece pushing the form of duration and endurance in the body to see how much the audience could take. Some of it worked some of it didn't. The performers (students) were fantastic and really pushed themselves to the limit. I thought - there's something in this.

I got some space at The Oval House through the kindness of Rebecca Atkinson Lord. Unfortunately I wasn't able to commit to it in the end, although Rebecca sat me down earlier on in the process and gave me some wonderful expert advice on the show and how to put something like this on.

Ok - I decided to go back to The RSC to remount the same show. I knew James Blakey was doing the associate directing on it and thought this would be a perfect opportunity to test the work further. I have worked with James as a collaborator and actor in his shows for a few years. He said yes to my invite and when we got time and space through the support of The RSC, namely Claire Birch, we began.

We worked through the ideas I originally had and then picked up a book I had just read and was getting inspired by, "The Death Of Marco Pantani". This book was the biography of a famous champion cyclist and the story of how he came to die of an overdose after winning almost all competitions in his sport. Here we are, this epic Greek tragedy of a story, all about success, failure, competition family and memory! We decided to attempt to tell it. We enlisted the help of some lovely actors from the show: Rebecca Johnson, Harry Waller, Laura Prior, Mimi Ndiweni, and Jordan Metcalfe. We generated some wonderful work; but James and I realised our work is a one man piece right now. We continued to make and experiment and made some great stuff together. It was so nice to work with someone who seemed to just get where I wanted to go and pushed me to delve into things and stick to them without drifting. We clearly have a shared language and understanding of work. I also spent a lot of time during this period talking to Jenni Jackson about the work, getting brilliant advice. We filmed a few things and set down what we wanted the show to be.

 

In this time James was getting in touch with other artists who had approached him to make solo shows. He seems the person for the job! He had a wonderful idea that we should get together and collaborate on each other's work. He and Tom Mansfield set about to create a festival commissioned by Shoreditch Town Hall called DARE. The idea, or question: how can we have an ensemble approach to devising solo work? The artists he has invited and who will be showing are myself, Jennifer Jackson and Heather Long.

So now we are here at a point waiting in for our funding application through UpStart Theatre. I should add the Dare festival is also in collaboration with Tom Mansfield's work "Phone Home" - a theatre project with three companies in three countries following and collaborating on stories about and from refugees and where we call home.

At this exciting time I am now preparing what the form of the show is and will send out a breakdown or "copy" for you to have a look at.

Best 

S