An Interview with Jamie Wood ahead of his new show I am a Tree

We interviewed critically acclaimed anarchic art clown Jamie Wood about the third show in his series of one-man shows which he previews here ahead of the Edinburgh Fringe. The first show in the trilogy was Beating McEnroe, which dealt with Jamie's relationship to masculinity; the second, O No!, used Yoko Ono's art instructions to look at how we share the world with another. And the third? Well... 

What is I am a Tree about?

To put it simply I Am A Tree is about how I live in the/this world. It's another clown show, which I use as a word to encourage me to be braver and more honest than I'd dare to be in life.

The other day I wondered if this was a show that every 42-year-old would make. I think it's about being in the middle, a convergence of past, present and future. It's about looking backwards in order to move forwards. I think it's a show about listening. Listening to the stuff under the surface, under the soles of our feet. It's about peeling away the surface to reveal the screaming, crying person I used to know, to reveal the more confident, reckless animal inside. 

It's about wildness and the fear of wildness, it's an attempt to find the courage to be whole. I was interested in how in the 1920s my granddad was walking 14 miles a day to work in 3ft 2 of damp and dark for very little money whilst the surrealists contemplated our sub conscious in Paris in cafes. My granddad always spoke about moving from surviving to living, so my walk was an attempt to go from living to surviving. I was trying to track my granddad who died at 101, to find company in his voice. I wanted to introduce him to my daughter who is two. I wanted to find where he found his courage and strength.

What's at the heart of the show? 

A lost wild man, a surreal imagination, a new found love of nature, an idiotic hairy 42-year-old singing to sheep and mountains, a re-wilding ritual.

What should people expect to feel and experience? 

People should expect to laugh and be moved and surprised, life affirming, peaceful.​

How did it feel to walk so far? 

The first day was amazing, second day awful, third day amazing and then slowly I loved feeling strong, like a creature walking amongst creatures. I loved my solitude, the simplicity of walking, I loved having nothing else to do, I loved having a single direction and objective.

How did it feel to disconnect yourself from the technological world?

Great but it was more just not being available to people asking me things.​

What is the power in rituals? 

I think there's something potentially powerful about a group of strangers sharing time and an experience together, it's about remembering our humanity and the miraculousness of being alive.
And is there a power in rituals that you create for yourself? 

I always want my shows to be an active ritual doing something for me, I think this one is about finding the courage to honestly be whole, it's about accepting my animal, it's about artist as listener, it's about becoming a tree.

How is this show different from Beating McEnroe and O No!? 

There are no famous people in it. It's opened up a space in me that the other two didn't, I'm discovering a lot about myself, I'm discovering a grief for a loss of connection to earth, to animals, to trees and rocks that I didn't know I had.

Is this show more personal? 

Yes, it's deeper and braver I think.​

What did you discover in making this show? 

That it's very easy to make a very sad show and not so easy to make a funny one. That people seem to really want to trust each other and be listened to, but that people feel very alone and separate from one another.

And how do you share that within the show? 

We dance, we sing, we touch each other, we remember the landscapes we've loved, we listen to each other, we travel to the animal spirit world, we appreciate our feet, we remember being children and imagine dying.

Click for more info and to book for I Am A Tree at Ovalhouse on 27-29 July. 

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