So why would a lawyer who spends his days working with banks decide by night to skylark as a thespian?
‘It’s unfinished business,’ says Swivel, ‘when my parents died I decided I would try and explore the story telling thing and comedy generally and do something with micro finance and that’s 8 years ago…’
Mark Swivel’s one man show How Deep is Your Love tells his personal ‘love’ story of learning microfinance in Bangladesh with the Nobel Prize winning Grameen Bank. In the process he falls for ‘Habibunessa, Shaorica and Malika’ the women who borrow to start their business. It’s the pure romance of ideology in action.
‘I’ve been trying to get a bit of arts into banking –once you get past the barrier that the show is about banking its fascinating – because it’s the intersection of everyway you can possibly look at humans.’
It begs the question though, why is a middle class white man telling the story of poor black women?
‘Cos I went to Bangladesh to learn something. And learnt plenty. If we focused as a species on how we can listen to poor, black women rather being afraid of poor non-white men, we might get somewhere.’
Thanks to the input of supportive and creative friends, the script made it from page to stage in just a few months. Although the shows’ gestation was years in the making.
‘I wrote a blog while I was in Bangaldesh. Then I wrote a long hand version of the show. We did readings a year ago of the long version. Friends like Clare McGregor and Alan Close came along. Clare thought it was a piece of radio, some thought it was a book. But all the way I knew it was more of a Spalding Gray type thing aka Swimming to Cambodia. Now, thanks to the input it’s a neater story.’
Just under a year ago Mark presented his show at the Drill Hall. Now he’s embarking on a small scale ‘national’ tour – including shows at Melbourne Comedy Festival, Newcastle, Albury, Canberra and Sydney’s Seymour Centre.
Ironically this little show about little people doing a lot with a little bit of money is making a big impression. It also saw Swivel guest alongside Philip Adams on Radio National’s Late Night Live, sharing the ideas and charting the progress of the show to date.
‘I did a fundraiser for Good Return (NGO focused on empowering people around the world to break the poverty cycle) in Sydney – I wasn’t sure how that would go and we did it at the offices of a big insurance company. It was very upscale Sydney, so I wasn’t sure how the jokes would go and how it would sit with the slightly ambivalent attitude towards finance. In the end they made me an ambassador for the organization, and I think performance wise it was the best show to date. I got talking to the CEO who is a serious player in the development sector – they do microfinance and skills development in 8 counties in the Asia Pacific region . There is a team at Good Return currently working on a project in the Solomon islands looking at mobile banking for people who don’t have bank accounts. We got a conditional YES from the bank that wants to fund it, if we get the green light I am off with a team of people to do this work in the Solomon Islands. That’s within a year of doing the first show at the Drill Hall.’
In his show, Swivel attempts to ignite the passion for community development via microfinance, believing that there can be a place for altruism within capitalism.
‘Capitalism is not profit maximisation, which is our current tyranny. Capitalism provides a home for mutuality, social enterprise and non-profits. Altruism is not charity but socially engaged, connected behaviour. Take a look around, happiness is not rampant, we could use more altruism. Profit is not bad in itself, it’s what you use it for, and how you make it in the first place.’
Considering the huge scale of global commerce is Swivel is a believer in ‘small change’.
‘Small is and always was beautiful’ he says.
‘But most men would say that wouldn’t they?’
Mid tour, Mark Swivel performs How Deep Is Your Love at the Mullumbimby Ex Services Club on Thursday 24 March at 7.30pm. Half of the ticket proceeds go to Mullum Neighborhood Centre Emergency Food Cards.
www.swiv.com.au – details and ticket bookings.