CENTREFOLD / Amateur aquatics: Literary agent transforms ICA into swimming pool

'Theatre is a very important but a very silly activity,' declares Gary Carter, who performs two solo pieces under the title Sport and Recreation at the ICA on Wednesday. 'The whole idea of a group of people coming to watch me pretending to be under water is very funny'. It's even funnier if, as is the case with Carter, you are only a part-time performer. The rest of the time he is a literary agent, and his clients frequently come to see the performances. 'They enjoy coming to watch me and then telling me my structure was crap,' he admits cheerfully. 'They're incredibly influential in the sense that having exposure to people who are much more talented than you is a very good thing'.

Carter describes his performance work as fictionalised autobiography, and the two ICA pieces, The Business and Rest Interval, draw heavily on the split in his life between art and business, of 'wearing suits and hammering out contracts'.

Born in South Africa to British parents, he always longed to become a ballet dancer. He trained as an actor and director, but refused to go into the South African army and so was deported to England. Here he got a temping job with a literary agency which, in time, became permanent.

The Business is the story of a business-man who is obsessed with Swan Lake, and whose business-suit eventually takes flight and performs a version of the ballet. Rest Interval starts from the premise that the audience is watching somebody swimming up and down in a pool. 'I'm an obsessive swimmer, I swim two and a half miles every day before work. I started to wonder what you could possibily imagine about my life if you watched me. In the water all you can see is fragmented bits of my body passing by, under water and all distorted. When you see people every day at a pool you get snippets of their lives, but it's a very partial view.' When transformed into art it's an even more partial view. 'It's based on truth, but I lie wildly,' he says. 'The funny thing is that people always assume that what you say is true in the theatre'.

Sport and Recreation, 8pm Wednesday 8 June, ICA, The Mall, SW1, pounds 7/pounds 5 Box office 071-930 3647

(Photograph omitted)

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