Risky Business

Sadly, not the superlative (but frankly, a little wierd) 80’s Tom Cruise film, but a little Tim Etchells.

I first read ‘On Risk and Investment’ as an impressionable undergraduate, and continue to return to it, time and time again.  I don’t know whether I seek comfort, reassurance or blind faith in Etchell’s words, but I often find all three.

I want to risk and be at risk and have others take risks with me.

I want to attempt to be honest (but never truthful), I want to be involved, be engaged, be in tune and at odds.  I want to be good and bad but never mediocre.  I want to believe, I want to fall hard and fast, I want to be cynical.  I want to question, prod, poke, provoke.

And sometimes, I want to dance in my pants and socks to ‘Old Time Rock and Roll’.


Investment is what happens when the performers before us seem bound up unspeakably with what they’re doing—it seems to matter to them, it appears to hurt them or threatens to pleasure them, it seems to touch them, in some quiet and terrible way. Investment is the bottom line—without it nothing matters, and we don’t see half enough of it. At a recent event I attended someone asked a performer what was going on in a certain part of the piece he’d been in—the performer replied, ‘I don’t know about that, ask the writer…’. That answer simply shouldn’t be allowed.

Investment is the line of connection between performer and their text or their task. When it works it is private, and often on the very edge of words. Like all the best performance it is before us, but not for us.

This privacy of investment doesn’t make a solipsistic work or a brick wall to shut the watchers out. Quite the opposite—investment draws us in. Something is happening—real and therefore risked—something seems to slip across from the private world to the public one—and the performers are ‘left open’ or ‘left exposed’.

To be bound up with what you are doing, to be at risk in it, to be exposed by it. As performers we recognise but cannot always control these moments—they happen, perhaps, in spite of us.


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