Manchester-based writer, poet, performance artist and producer Keisha Thompson is about to tour her award-winning solo show, Man on the Moon, which is a love letter to her dad, a man with which she has a sometimes fraught relationship due to his reclusiveness. As Thompson prepares to take her show to Edinburgh, she reflects on her muse and highlights the financial challenges facing artists when trying to stage their productions.
Since 2015 I have gone on a journey to understand my dad. It started with a question. Why do I love my dad? Pretty brutal. I adjusted it. How do I love my dad? This man who sends me books, letters and charts. How do you love someone you barely see and barely know?
The question has always been a constant. Like gravity, if you will. However, the urgency came from a real life incident. I realised when I got the commission from STUN to make a new piece of work that I hadn’t heard from my dad in five months.
The fragility of our relationship was palatable. It was the root to the anxiety I had been trying to ignore. And that in itself made me think. Why was it so culturally acceptable for me to ignore this anxiety? Why was no one else concerned when I brought this up? Why was my dad’s reclusive lifestyle fed to me as a series of jokes?
During this process I have created three separate artworks. A theatre show – Man on the Moon, a book – Lunar and an EP (short album) – Moonwhile. All of which operate independently, but also slot together like puzzle pieces to tell a bigger story. They speak to different audiences. Each one has also served me in a unique way as an artist. But most importantly, they have helped me to understand my dad in a deeper, higher, more spherical way. My gratitude is asymptotic.
Here’s an excerpt from the book:
“At the start of the writing process for the solo show, I knew I wanted to write a book as well. There was too much material for a theatre production. Some of it didn’t make sense within the realms of theatre. (I just want to say I would definitely recommend a secondary creative output to any maker!)
Having somewhere to dump my ideas and thoughts that didn’t fit in the play was so comforting. It allowed me to be brutal. It’s alright – I’d tell myself – it will go into the book.
I want to finish off by giving a bit of context to my language choices. It felt right to challenge myself to use logic, mathematics, numerology, psychology, religion, alchemy and science to influence the poetic forms and references in the work. This is the language that I’ve had to use to communicate with my dad. It was challenging but in a good way – like doing an IQ puzzle for the first time. I hope it isn’t too alienating… but to be fair my dad is an alien so maybe that is how I want you to feel.
As the recent Windrush scandal hasn’t failed to show us, being Black British can make you feel like you are constantly fighting. My dad is a part of that generation. I have seen the impact that this has had on his race, gender, spirituality and mental health. And I know the impact it has had on me. They call it “other”. I call it otherworldly. This project has helped me to confront some big topics and embody one of my dad’s favourite quotes: “The pen is mightier than the sword.”
This summer I will be touring Man on the Moon ending in Edinburgh (see dates below). As is the case for many artists, Edinburgh is self-funded. If you’d like to find out more and sponsor or support me, visit my bandcamp page and pay to download the music from the show.