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Clashing beliefs, ideals and perspectives - Greg Wohead agrees to disagree and Call It A Day

 

In January 2009 on a freezing snowy day in central Illinois, my then-partner and I visited the home of Samuel and Martha Herschberger, an Amish couple. The memory of that meeting forms the starting point for my new show, Call It a Day, which explores the possibility or impossibility of ever really making contact with another person, especially someone with a very different view of the world.

The Old Order Amish who live in that area of the US exist without electricity, cars or any modern technology, so meeting Samuel and Martha on their farm felt like a weird time warp to my partner and I in some ways. It was fascinating to have a conversation with them and to learn about how they think and what they do with their days and their lives, but I could never imagine living that way myself. Samuel and Martha probably thought the same about my partner and me.

Call It a Day focuses in on the idea of this conversation around a table between two couples who in some ways are mirror images of each other but in many ways are polar opposites. One couple liberal, artistic, progressive, unmarried, childless and city-dwelling, the other conservative, practical, traditional, rural-dwelling parents of seven children.

It’s not unlike the clashing beliefs, ideals and perspectives many will have encountered around the Christmas dinner table just a few weeks ago over, say, Brexit. Or ‘migrants’. Or the current sitting US president.

So yes, Call It a Day is about this conversation I had in 2009 with an Amish couple, but it’s also about the conversations we all have every day with people who think differently than us in big and small ways. Or the conversations we don’t have and why we don’t have them. With Call It a Day I’m not proposing that we need to listen more to the ‘other side’ or be more sympathetic or change our tactics in order to win or convince. It’s more about this complex dance we do when we’re trying to understand each other and assert ourselves at the same time, and how in the end we can never be anyone but ourselves with our own set of experiences, influences and beliefs.

But in spite of the fact that I can only be me, I find that I keep trying to understand what it’s like to be someone else—whether it be a conservative Republican relative, a Leave-voting neighbour, a long time friend who I’ve just learned has an unexpected political view. Sometimes it feels like we have a conversation and nothing changes, no one gets anywhere in communicating where they’re coming from or understanding where the other is coming from. So we agree to disagree. We call it a day.

 


In Call It a Day, me and three other performers - Mireya Lucio, Tim Bromage and Amelia Stubberfield, repeat the idea of the 2009 conversation with Samuel and Martha over and over again on a loop. Each time things shift - a perspective is altered, new information comes out, a small detail emerges, a wild imagined fantasy is uncovered. Sometimes things don’t make sense. That’s sometimes how conversations across wide gulfs in perspective can feel. But we keep trying. I called the show Call It a Day because, yes, in a way it’s about giving up. It’s about the feeling that it’s impossible to ever really understand someone different from you. But the next day arrives and you can try again. And again and again and again. And maybe over time something will wear away or shift or make more or less sense.

Our conversation with Samuel and Martha Herschberger on that freezing snowy day in 2009 in many ways felt mundane. Everyone was polite. We told them about where we lived in London - a flat in a Victorian terrace. They told us what crops they farm - corn and soybeans. We cracked jokes and laughed, we talked about the weather and how many siblings we all had. The four of us were both familiar and alien to each other.

Call It a Day will take this conversation - which was both ordinary and extraordinary - explode it into a million pieces and give up. And then we will try it again.

 

Call It A Day
by Greg Wohead
29 Jan - 02 Feb 2019
at The Yard Theatre
Info and tickets: theyardtheatre.co.uk


Greg Wohead | gregwohead.com | @gregwohead