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Autobiographical performance and why anyone bothers making it. By Lucy Hutson

“What do you do?” is a pretty usual opener if you meet someone new. I normally go vague and say I work in the theatre.

Sometimes people assume I work on the technical side of things which I like. I think that makes me seem much cooler in their imagination. I’m walking about in all black with steel toecap boots on my feet and my own multi tool in my pocket solving problems for over sensitive artists. All with a cup of tea in my hand.

I like that version of me and I’m sure in a parallel universe, I’m smashing that career.

But in this universe I am the oversensitive artist and proud of it.

I love being an artist, I’m just not so great at describing what I do in a social setting.

It’s not something I find I can sum up in a sentence, at least not a sentence I feel that I can recite without sounding pretentious.

But here goes - What I am is a live artist making solo, autobiographical, performance work.

I think the problem I have with describing my chosen profession is the autobiographical bit: Yep, that’s what I do, stand up in front of people and go on and on about my very own self.

Sounds terrible doesn’t it? But let me now defend myself.

It’s not just going on and on about myself. I’m not reading out my shopping lists or describing my perfect night in. It’s how I see the world, my perspective on the things I think are important.

I would argue that actually taking an autobiographical approach to a subject is the best way to avoid pretension.

My approach to art is why spend ages thinking up how to express something with a metaphor or write a story that carries the message when you can just come out and say it?

And the last thing I want to do is tell my audience what to think about something.

What I do, is to tell you how I feel about the subject, how it affects me or how I benefit from it. I try and make work on subjects where my perspective is of interest or is missing from wider conversations

That brings me to my latest show: Bound

I have been finding this one particularly difficult to describe because, well, the set is made up of 3 screens and on these screens are films of me.

I’m onstage surrounded by myself talking about myself.

Stay with me…

The most annoying thing that can happen when making autobiographical work is when you start to move away from sentiments that you’ve written into a show, but that you still wish to perform.

I started making Bound 10 years ago by making the first film. It describes how I felt about my gender and how I saw it fitting into the world around me. There is footage from 2009, 2012, 2015 as well as 2019. I was grappling with questions of gender identity when I started this project as I still am now.  

And that’s what I want to show someone without all the answers

Someone who is trying to understand where they fit into a world which seems to have a growing gap between polarised opinions on gender.

There are times I’ve changed my mind and there are times where my resolve has strengthened. Then there are the things that seemed a problem at the time but now society doesn’t seem to care about them anymore.

I didn’t want to erase what I thought in early years, quite the opposite. I want to show how I’ve come to the things I think by showing what came before them.

Bound is at Camden People’s Theatre on December 6 and 7. For more information, head to www.cptheatre.co.uk

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