“The Beast is a simple story about a creature called Winslow,” Bowden explains. “Nobody really knows what he is, [but] he lives in a cave and he’s learnt everything he knows about humanity from watching people. He eats berries and various rodents and often thinks about killing himself. He wonders what he’s doing here. He longs for connection. This show is about Winslow seeking that connection.”
While researching what it is that Stuart Bowden does, I came across his blog and the works of micro fiction he’d posted. It was through those stories that Bowden’s considerable talent revealed itself. His writer’s voice is crisp and present; his prose has a neatness I envy, and the power of his writing comes from a place of quiet, unassuming strength.
The pairing of that skill for self-expression with the isolated story of The Beast – for me, at least – makes Bowden’s new stage show a particularly exciting prospect. “To be honest,” Bowden starts, “I always wanted to be a performer. I studied acting, and since graduating [I’ve] developed my writing as a survival mechanism.”
This survival mechanism, he explains, began as a pragmatic solution to ensuring there were always roles available for him. If there were no juicy parts going, then Bowden was simply the one to create them. “[But] now I can’t stop,” he continues. “I’ve found a sense of empowerment as an artist. I take pleasure in the writing, [and] it has definitely become a creative outlet for me…playing with ideas and creating characters. It’s rewarding to create [a] whole work from start to finish, from idea to performance, and I [so] don’t really see the two [as] completely separate things.”
Thematically, his micro fiction wrestles with self worth; it’s all internal monologues, missed connections, and soft, introspective moments of humility. His performance art, though, through a different medium, inhabits a similar thematic and narrative space. “As a solo artist it can get a little lonely, and that often makes its way into my work.” Bowden admits. “I regularly find myself dredging through themes of longing, isolation, and [also] hope. I think I’m drawn to these themes because I grew up in [the] country, and I spent a lot of time just hanging out with my brothers on the farm or on my own.
“I don’t think isolation is necessarily a negative thing, though. With isolation, you’re left with your thoughts and your imagination and that’s when you start to create stories. I think the main characters in my two solo shows experience that imaginative freedom that isolation can foster.”
“In the beginning I wrote The Beast as the second in a series of portraits of characters in isolation seeking others. The first in the series was about a space explorer, [and it was] during the performance of [that show] that I started to think about creating a show about a ‘creature’ rather than a human; [a show about] that creature’s isolation and naivety. Winslow is a creature desperately seeking humanity, so we relate to him and ultimately want to be his friend.”
WHAT: The Beast
WHEN & WHERE: Thursday 20 to Sunday 23 September, Brisbane Powerhouse
Time Off (Sep 12, 2012)