Ode: Fraser Buchanan’s Upcoming Queer Solo Show

HISKIND had the opportunity to speak to dancer and multi-disciplinary artist, Fraser Buchanan, currently in the process of crowdfunding for his upcoming queer one-man show, Ode, “a dance theatre, spoken word solo about a gay boy”, about his inspirations, contemporary queer art, and what audiences can expect when the show comes to theatres in 2018.

What’s been the driving force behind the creation of Ode, and what’s the process of creating the show been like?

The driving force was definitely a need to create. I graduated from dance school and I wanted to make work for myself. I like creating on my own because most of my writing and my movement ideas come from my lived experience— plus in the studio on my own, I feel less worried about making mistakes, or making stuff that is potentially rubbish. I play with things, chuck stuff out, go back to stuff— but its great because it’s just me.

With Ode the writing definitely came first. I write lots of bits and pieces on my phone and I started something with the line “It was playing with boys, didn’t actually have the girls’ toys”— and I just really liked it. It came from that awful question straight people ask you “When did you know you were…?” whatever and kind of jokingly I went off on one with a reply. Sometimes I get an initial buzz with an idea and after 24 hours, I read it back and think it’s completely naff. This one I kept going and going for about a month until I was given an opportunity to make a 5 minute work for a scratch night and I knew it had to be this piece of writing.

The creation started with words. When I felt stuck with words I would figure it out with moving, and when I didn’t know how to move, I would start to write some more. That was vaguely the process— such is the beauty of creating a solo, there isn’t the pressure to be a certain thing for other people.

Underpinning it all was a massive and quite frustrated desire to create something unapologetically gay. A piece of work that would use gay as it’s primary adjective in description. I’m fully aware that in 2017, this is not a particularly radical act, but still one which I had felt a little internalised homophobic voice saying “just because you’re gay don’t make a dance about being gay”. I thought about this a lot when starting creating Ode and concluded, fuck it. Just because straight governments are telling LGBTQ+ people how far we’ve come and how good things are, does not mean I should feel guilty for talking about something which is actually still really painful and really hard for literally millions of human beings right now in our world.

|by Dougie Evans

You describe Ode as ‘a physically poetic and confusing conversation between me now and my gay, teenage self.’ What about that gap — between the person you are now, and the teenager you were then—are you seeking to address with your show?

I say a conversation because I sort of see them as two people. Me back in the ‘straight days’ and 23 year old big queer me now. The gap between them is so insanely large, yet obviously they are the same human, because it is just me.

I’m a self-deprecating person by nature so in Ode I tried to channel that, albeit in a very loving way. Physically remembering the feeling of things, the awkwardness, the pretence of all my behaviours, the cringe inducing ways I’d act or talk to keep face— but, on reflection now, being able to find the irreverence and the humour in there. Not laughing at myself, but laughing at how ridiculous it is that i felt the need to behave the way I did.

Moving from Southampton and going to Rambert School, in literal weeks I went from being “straight” to being with my first boyfriend. The boys changing rooms at secondary school and the boys changing room at dance school were two very different social spaces! With Ode I’m to trying revisit and dissect who I was across the four of five year period of time where everything to do with sexuality was solely going within the confines of my head. The piece is called Ode because I love the teenage me, don’t get me wrong I wish that me now could have just given him a big hug, but without him going through the big muddle and confusion that he did, I wouldn’t be as a resolute and strong in my queer identity as I am now— it is literally an Ode to him.

Also when I reflect on that teenage period of time I just think about how little I was able to communicate. I wasn’t able to verbalise what it was I feeling. So in the creation of Ode it seemed to make sense to move. Physically kind of navigating this place of emotional and mental paralysis. It was more about finding a quality than being descriptive. The world ‘exaltation’ is a good example. I was trying to find a way to explore that huffing, breathing out feeling. Finding that feeling became a kind of physical game, which then turned into an improvisation, which then became vaguely choreographed into a progression of movement.

In your own words the show is in parts quite ‘awkward…very bizarre and sometimes really quite uncomfortable’— is this in any way a response to the rise of glossy queer aesthetics really taking root in mainstream art and queer art specifically?

I haven’t consciously thought about it in this way, but in Ode I 100% engage very purposefully in the least palatable and most difficult bits of my memories. Random tangent, it frustrates me massively within queer cinema specifically that I’m yet to see, for example, the practical preparations for gay male sex represented in film! I suppose that for some people the glossy aesthetic is representative of their lived experience, for others it fully is not. Even with me making Ode I have this little voice in my head that nags “oh another white cis gay male talking about coming-out”. My experiences are not untypical; some parts people will relate to, some not so much. I think the broader and more diverse range of queer voices we have in art across the different mediums, the better represented the community as a whole will feel and the richer the output of work will be.

What excites you about the landscape of contemporary queer art, and what bores you?

It excites me that contemporary queer art is something that even nice normal humans are hearing about now.
By ‘normal humans’ I mean people outside the artsy, trendy London world. Sometimes in our little bubble its hard to think about how maybe a film like Moonlight or a book like Boy in the Dress, could seem like such a big a deal, and to a degree it shouldn’t be a big deal. These are things which have been the subject of art for literally decades. But it’s about who is able to access it. To me that access to queer art reaching further than Zone 6 is really exciting.

Who/what are some of your great cultural inspirations?

Judy, Liza, Barbra, Dusty, Shirley— I love these crazily emotive female performers.

Finding Christopher Isherwood was a revelation.

My first ever exposure to contemporary dance was watching a video of Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake. At the time I’d barely seen anything more than musical theatre and so it just seemed like the most beautiful thing to watch men dancing.

|by Dougie Evans

If you had to choose a favourite image or photograph or performance, or any other piece of art what would it be?

I saw a band called The Irrepressibles live in Islington a couple of years ago. Their song ‘Two Men in Love’ was completely, genuinely the anthem of my gayness. I love them and to see them in the flesh was fairly incredible. Jamie McDermott’s voice is of another realm.

What do you want people to take away when they see your show?

My biggest desire is for people, on whatever individual level, to feel included within the world that I’m creating. I’m totally for art and performance going bloody mental and bad-shit (which I hope to have done a little bit with Ode), but I resent it when a piece of art or performance makes me feel excluded or not high-brow enough to take it in. I want people to take away with them a light dusting of optimism. Although being a puberty ridden adolescent with acne and repressed homosexual desire isn’t the funnest, I hope we can laugh and smile at the beautiful oddities and peculiarities of it all- with an imbued sense of optimism that were headed roughly in the right direction.

Ode will be performed in a TBC London fringe venue in early 2018. You can donate to the Ode kickstarter here.

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