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Paul Cree on the art of conversation, underground music - and The Last Word

Paul Cree is an outright word lover - his writer/rapper/poet talent has taken him from his Surrey roots to performances at Bestival and Latitude. The stories he tells are influenced by his own experiences, celebrating the everyday. Cue ‘A Tale from The Bedsit’ – his latest show as part of ‘The Last Word' festival at the Roundhouse. The tale invites us to be part of an intimate gathering, unpicking the ins and outs of a regular guy whilst riding the spoken word magic carpet. Here he tells us how the project was kickstarted and which other artists we might be wanting to look out for on the storytelling scene.

Run-Riot: A Tale from the Bedsit is a site specific show - tell us what inspired to you to perform in this way, why this location, and how it feels to be so close to your audience.
Paul Cree:
I had the original idea for it being set in a bedsit back in 2010. I was part of the Young People's Theatre at Battersea Arts Centre, we were doing a performance, which had been  programmed alongside all the professional artists for BAC's 1-on-1 Festival. It got me thinking about small audiences and intimate experiences. The bedsit jumped out straight away. Back when I lived there, as grim as it was, I'd quite often have people over, mates - and mates of mates. The space was cramped and other than striking up good conversations there was't a great deal else to do. The onus was on me as a host to try and facilitate that [the conversation]. When people came over who I didn't know - as the space was so immediate - it could be uncomfortable. I didn't have a working TV so the only way I found I could get over that awkwardness was by talking, sharing stories, telling jokes, playing music and getting them to do the same. What I found is, it became a nice place to converse in - and, I like talking. The site-specific part of the show is me trying to overcome those same barriers again. There's no stage or marked out performance area so I have to engage them in a similar way. If I can make them forget about that performer / audience dynamic and walk away feeling like they're one of my mates then I'll be happy.

Run-Riot: This is an autobiographical tale of your move from Surrey to Brighton - what has been the one biggest difference for you between Suburbs and City?
Paul Cree:
I think the biggest difference for me are the opportunities. Any city is going to have a higher density of people and a wider variety of people. All these different people have their own needs and wants which in turn creates the opportunities. I left Horley with a desire to be involved with underground music. There wasn't really an outlet for that kind of thing there, where's in Brighton there was. There were a lot more people who were open to it and they were creating the opportunities. When I arrived in London, I got involved in theatre and poetry programmes for young people at BAC and the Roundhouse. I was in world-class venues working with respected professional artists. I don't think I would have got these opportunities had I stayed at home.

Run-Riot: This piece is part of the Roundhouse's 'The Last Word Festival' - if you were to programme the next one, which artists would you include?
Paul Cree:
Oh man tough question! A lot of the people already involved in the festival I'm fans of. I've worked a lot through the Roundhouse with Talia Randal and Sean Mahoney and I know they are both working on solo pieces so I'd like to see those. Rob Auton's one-man shows are great, he brings his own aesthetic with the design of them, he's brilliant at what he does. Richard Purnell and Gary From Leeds are a good double act, Sabrina Mahfouz and Rachel Rose-Reid have really impressed me with their solo work, Martin Daws as he'll bring the live music vibes, Byron Vincent, I saw him once and that was enough. Polarbear of course, and David J to top it off as he's incredible.

Run-Riot: Your work has talked about growing up and at the Battersea Arts Centre you've also work with young people - do you think they have an impact on the way you work?
Paul Cree:
Yes I think so. Any people I interact with will have some kind of impact on me, as my surroundings are where I think I get most of influence from. I'm a bit of an observer, always have been, I like people watching, looking at clouds, staring out of my window at the trees! I enjoy working with young people, they have different energies and ideas.

Run-Riot: Poetry has traditional and contemporary fans - do you convince people of its merits and what can you recommend I read right now?
Paul Cree:
I guess you'd have to ask them [the people] that! The one thing I'd hope to convince people of, is the benefits of having some sort of outlet for self-expression, emotions, ideas, thoughts etc. Whether that's with a paintbrush or playing football. It just so happens that I've ended up doing it this way, writing words down and most of the time it works for me. As for a recommendation, In Heaven The Onions Make You Laugh by Rob Auton is brilliant.

Run-Riot: Your career has crossed boundaries of performance, music, writing - what more do you hope to achieve?
Paul Cree:
At some point, when the time and ideas are right, I'd like to have a go at writing a stage play, a radio play and a screen play. All those different mediums excite me. More music too. I have an EP I've been working on with a guy called Conrad Murray. I've been involved in the producing side of it, which I've enjoyed and is something I'd like to do more of. Other than that, keep doing what I'm already doing. I love it.

See A tale from the Bedsit at The Roundhouse 26 Nov – 1 Dec