The Other Michael Jackson, a documentary he co-wrote and presented about his father singer/songwriter Mick Jackson was recently shown on Channel 4.
His short play Where I Used to Live about the way in which our environment shapes our identity is part of Round 2, The Factory’s new writing show, developed in association with the Hampstead Theatre, which begins its weekly Tuesday night residency at the Electricity Showrooms on Hoxton Square this week.
London is a strange beast when you first arrive as a kid from the semi-rural German suburbs who thinks he knows it all. Getting off the plane from my hometown in North-Rhine Westphalia, my sensible pastel-coloured quilted jacket, if nothing else, should have given me a clear indication that this was not the case.
Back at school dual citizenship had always been my secret weapon in asserting a teenage sense of blissfully and demonstratively ‘not-belonging’.
Individuality? Tick. I was the weird English artsy kid and I had the beginnings of ginger stubble and the bored facial expression during vocabulary tests to prove it. Surely I was nothing like anyone else.
However, the reality of being in London now presented an unexpected challenge – would I suddenly and conveniently choose to be the lost German boy from the suburbs whenever I needed to cover up an area of inexperience or incompetence, i.e. become the very thing I had been running from for the past 19 years? Or worse, might I actually have to live up to the image of the sophisticated English artist that I had learnt to fake so badly that surely I would immediately be found out in my new more astute environment?
Another question seemed a little more scary: Did this very clear perception of separate international personalities mean that there were in fact two of me? And if so, was the other one better dressed and getting more action on a Saturday night?
Over the years my hot mess of straight-laced German suburbia meets English champagne faux-bohemia relaxed and naturally found its own balance, but it has often made me wonder how much our environment, even as an adult, shapes who we are.
Did my personality shift again when I lived in Kenton, Harrow, Dollis Hill, Willesden Green, Highgate, Stratford, Kilburn or Maida Vale? How much do we want our associations of living in the North/East/West/South to inform not only how we are seen, but who we become?
These are the ideas I aim to explore in Where I Used To Live, which will be performed for the first time in Shoreditch on Tuesday. So in between the checked shirts and skinny jeans in the audience you might just see a grinning fool wearing a pastel-coloured quilted jacket with Central European pride.
For more on Sam’s projects go to www.sampeterjackson.com
Round 2 is at the Electricity Showrooms every Tuesday at 7.30pm from 9th March (plays vary for every performance). See www.thefactorytheatre.co.uk for details.
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