How We Met: Bobby Baker & Mark Storor
Sunday 03 April 2011
Mark Storor, 48
An award-winning artist and theatre director, Storor specialises in collaborating with participants from troubled communities and those suffering from chronic illness. His shows, including 'Visiting Time' and 'For the Best', often shine an uplifting light on mortality. He lives in Birmingham with his partner
I was an artist doing an MA in contemporary theatre practice in 1994 when Bobby was invited to hold a five-day masterclass as a visiting tutor. Until then, any time I shared an idea, brows would furrow. During a tutorial with her, I explained I wanted to make a human-sized chocolate log and dress up as an elf and perform around it. She looked at me and without blinking, said, "What are we going to do with all the cake?" It felt great to have an idea endorsed and it set me on the road to following my own path.
After that we constantly exchanged ideas, and when she was making her London show Take a Peek!, she invited me to help stage-manage it. I watched her negotiate a series of difficult twists and turns to realise her vision, and saw this amazing tenacity, which inspired me to have faith in my own ideas.
Two years later, when she did her Grown-Up School project, I worked on it as an artist in my own right, supporting the show and working with the primary-school kids who were part of the piece.
I was working with her during quite a lot of her battle with mental illness. We'd knock back a few Wild Turkeys and Coke, and she kept the rhythms going, despite suffering terribly. She had moments of terror, and I sat with her when she was going through the worst.
Our friendship has moved way beyond our work. I run an arts summer school in London each year and I always stay with Bobby for the duration of it. Every morning begins with Bobby and I putting the world to rights over a cup of tea at 7am in her bed, before I go off to work.
Life can be brutal and painful, and Bobby sees that too. But just when life feels like it's going down a plug hole, she will say something or I will and we'll roar with laughter. It's over the small things we come to blows, such as how to put the milk in the tea: I put milk in first, Bobby insists it should go in after. After years of disagreeing, I now give her a jug and she puts it in any way she wants.
Bobby Baker, 60
An acclaimed performance artist, Baker specialises in the subversion of domesticity, from creating an edible cake version of her family to, recently, a searing exhibition at the Wellcome Collection, 'Bobby Baker's Diary Drawings', dealing with her struggles with mental illness. She lives in London
I'm not a natural teacher, so I was petrified to be asked to do a masterclass in contemporary theatre practice for mature students. At the end of one workshop, Mark, one of the students, said, "We think it's important we entertain you." So he invited me back to his flat along with the others, to a place filled with candles, and we opened a few bottles of wine.
I felt very relaxed around him and loved his ideas, so I asked him to take part in a show I was doing, Take a Peek!. He threw himself into it with gusto, and we got friendlier and friendlier.
His approach is quite different to mine: I come up with an idea that comes from my background, while Mark creates ideas with other people. He enables them to express themselves in remarkable ways, which was really useful on a project I was doing called Grown-Up School. The way he brought out of the kids exactly what they felt taught me a lot.
Later, he joined me on a terrible tour I did of America, when I was really ill [mentally]. He was very practical. I said to him once, "Mark, I've not done any of my washing." So he did it all for me, all the time we were just laughing. He'd say, "Do you realise you've got me hanging up your bra and knickers?"
We both get a great deal of joy from the small things. I've always been regarded as rather odd by most people in the thrill I get from laying a table or from going shopping, and Mark is the same. The other night, on the way back to London from a trip, we stopped at a motorway service station and discovered a stand of voodoo dolls. Most people would just look a bit lemon-lipped at 1am, but there's me and Mark going back and forth excitedly, buying dolls for everyone, including each other. Everyone's always found me a bit exhausting, so perhaps the only problem with Mark is that I sometimes find him even more so.
Have I given him good advice in a crisis? I don't think it's so much what I've said – though I do recall giving him a few home truths once about an ex-boyfriend – but it's about the affection of sitting there, looking appalled at what's gone on and saying to him, "That's really bad; let's watch TV and eat chocolate."
Mark Storor's 'The Fat Girl Gets a Haircut and Other Stories' is at the Roundhouse, London NW1 (roundhouse.org.uk), from 26 April to 7 May
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