Monday, 8 November 2010

The author of this post is responsible for this post

I saw The Author by Tim Crouch on Friday. Four nights ago and I still can't stop thinking about it. Which is good. I haven't been quite so interrupted by a piece of theatre in a long time.

I am unsettled.

I thought I was prepared. I knew a little about this play with no action. I knew I would be confronted, challenged and prompted to think about my place in it. I feared it would be more direct and in my face. I was anxious before I arrived. I knew that people had walked out. But were they plants? All of them? I knew the performers would be seated amongst us. What I could never have predicted is my reaction to the performance.

I was so removed. Uncomfortable, fearful but somewhat removed from the words (they're only words right?) for the majority of the show. Fascinated by the audience seated opposite me, by the artist (and director) in my eyeline waiting for him to speak (which he did not) who was watching us (me?) and the unfolding drama.

I won't reveal the conclusion but I will say that it was shocking. Perhaps I was extra shocked being wrenched from my comfortable distance? And I felt guilty. Even as I was watching The Author saying the words I knew to be un(real)true, I felt guilty. Could I have stopped this? Really? It's a play, right? I wanted to get my money's worth. Don't we all? We want to hear the story, from beginning to the gruesome end. That is the point. Not our fault. So the author's then?

Hmmm... interesting. Still thinking.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Here's one I wrote earlier

I just found this in a notebook when I was sorting out my life and I thought it was interesting enough to type up. Especially post-Wherever I Lay My Hat and a certain amount of audience 'participation'.

I am not interested in performances that pretend I am not there. Nor do I want audience participation in the traditional sense. What I enjoy is more of a 'dare' than a demand. Companies/artists who pose a question, who suggest an action... In Reckless Sleepers Spanish Train Mole says something along the lines of "if at any point you feel unsafe, raise your hand and we will comfort you". Do they mean that? What would happen if 30mins later I raised my hand? Would I be ruining their performance? Would they follow through or simply ignore me? They have the power but I could challenge it and the offer is tantalising... The control is yours for the taking, if only you dare to. But being a consciencious audience member, sensative to the needs of both company and fellow audience members I do nothing beyond my basic requirement. I laugh appropriately, I linger on the more poignant moments but I don't raise my hand. I feel like a coward.

These are the moments I love in theatre these days. The points where I am asked to reach out to a performer, to share a moment with another human being and step beyond a passive role. Not that I like being asked to jump through hoops or make a show of myself. I hate all that panto crap. Humilliation is not the name of the game. Uninvited Guests on more than one occasion have asked individuals to express a sentiment for another member of the audience. Asking us to reach out, not just to them, but to the people around us as if to remind us that we are not alone. This touches on one of the fundamental reasons for my love of theatre, gigs, attending a dance class. I am a herd animal. I need the shared experience. I want to belong. But in those situations we are rarely asked to acknowledge one another, the focus is usually on a third party - a company, band or teacher.

So what is so stimulating and attractive about making contact? And why does is scare, even repel some people so much? After one Uninvited Guests performance I actually heard someone say "There should have been a notice up warning people there was audience participation". Was there? Was there really audience participation? Or were we just being asked to ackowledge each other and actively listen rather than sit back and expect to be entertained?

I don't know about other people but I always find that the more I put into watching a show, the more I enjoy it. My biggest problem about technicians such as Goat Island, Deer Park and Bodies in Flight is that I left the theatre feeling that I might as well not have been there. They would have managed just as well without me. However shows like Susan and Darren by Quarantine & Company Fierce would be pointless, utterly pointless playing to an empty room (as, I believe, Wherever I Lay My Hat would). Not audience participation as such, just a step beyond the safety of that fourth wall. An offer extended. "Let me place you in my environment, then you will see that this is real." Perhaps some people just don't want 'real' in their theatres? It's too close in a studio? Too real?

Or perhaps I am a thrill seeker? I like the danger of not knowing exactly what my role is and how much they may ask of me. For me it is about connecting. Tell me your story. Talk to me. If you pretend I am not here, then why am I here?

To this day the memory of John Keats from Fecund telling Jill that the moment in icon, where Sarah went down on someone in the audience holding a lollipop (in reference to an earlier text about blow jobs told from the perspective of a child... which I still can't quite believe I wrote) while I filmed them squirming, was "hardcore" still makes me smile. We weren't trying to hurt or scare anyone. We wouldn't have called it 'audience participation'. For us it was a vehicle to solidify one of our characters - "This is what she is like" - and also to make the audience complicit in the affair of our central character. The accusation was that they wanted it too. They were just as bad as he was. Hardcore? I'm not so sure but we wore the badge proudly for a while.

Wherever I Lay My Hat is a little more evolved and a little less confrontational but the blurred line is there from the moment the audience step over the Welcome mat and are greeted by us. This is not audience participation but then you are not our audience. You are our guests. You are here with us and you are welcome.

Monday, 6 September 2010

A different world

Berwick today with Rabbit Damage and only 11 days til we open. It's scary stuff.

I went 'home' this weekend. Back to Leeds for a friends wedding and now feel oddly disjointed. Like waking up from a particularly vivid dream. I had a good time and it was good to see people from work but I didn't feel like I belonged there. I was out of step. My reality has shifted.

I now belong in Leeds even less than I did before we started (I feel disloyal for saying this. There is NOTHING wrong with Leeds). Yes, it was nice to be in my flat, surrounded by my things but beyond that I felt no attachment to the place. It has become too real. Reality happens there. When I am away I free to dream and create. I am not bound by the rules of my mundane life.

It is a little like coming back from holiday I suppose, though perhaps I was too aware that I wasn't staying so I never really came all the way back from Neverland. I'm sure when the performances are done and I return home it will be a different story.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Don't stop believin!

So... getting ahead of myself, as ever... post-Wherever I Lay My Hat go back to work but don't work Fridays anymore leaving time to chase programmers for a tour (Woah there!) and have regular long weekends in Newcastle to spend more time with Jill (well, who else would I be talking about?).

AND, find a choir. Start singing regularly, perhaps even learn to read music (steady on now!). Perhaps it's just the Glee talking? And all I wanna do is fall in love and dance around my living room except of course, I'm just sitting here writing about it... erm...

I'm giddy and I want my life to change. I want optimism and I want passion and creativity! Above all things. I want to continue to feel like an artist when the show is over.  And I don't want to go back to being an office worker. There, I've said it.

(I would like to point out for the record that I do not however wish to be a Nun. Not that I have anything against Nuns, apart from their bizarre life choices... this is just a pic of when I was helping my friend create his musical Postcard's From God - The Sister Wendy Musical)

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Did I mention I'm going to be making some theatre?

Well.. if not perhaps you will forgive me a little shameless self promotion now.

If you hop (get it?) over to Rabbit Damage's website. If you're lucky you might just be the first person to comment on our blog.

We've been busy planning our first show and we go into rehearsals at the beginning of August. In the meantime you can browse our gorgeous pictues as taken by the lovely Mr Anthony Farrimond or find us on Twitter @RabbitDamage.

We're also going to be putting out a call soon for input from as many of you lovely people as possible, gathering thoughts and images of 'home' to integrate into our as yet (and equally frightening and wildly exciting) unmade show.

No doubt this won't be the last time I mention it. Sorry if I get a little boring.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Opening up a space

It's been two days since I left Devoted & Disgruntled NE2 and I still can't stop thinking about it and my place in it. For two days I was an artist and noone questioned it or had preconcieved ideas about my place in the discussion. I was an equal. I belonged. It was a good feeling.

D&D operates on the Open Space principles of -
Whoever comes are the right people.
Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.
Whenever it starts when is when it is supposed to start.
When it's over, it's over.

Then there is the law of two feet, essentially voting with your feet. You are in control of your experience. If you have an issue you can't complain about it not being covered if you don't raise it. If you are bored or feel the topic has moved away from what is relevant to you speak up or move on.

You are in control of your own experience. And this is a powerful thing. I'd like to think I used it well. The event offered the chance to learn about the scene in the region, make contacts, put names to faces and also learn from those with more experience than myself. And I still can't stop thinking about it. For me it marked a beginning. An entrance in to a world that I have been on the periphery of for too long and it was thrilling. Next... actually making some work.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Why buy art?

As a marketing officer I often have to think about the whys and wherefores of what people spend their money on.

At the moment I am pondering why people do (or do not) buy art. Mainly because I am working towards an art sale at work. We've done them before and as part of our commitment to developing artists and contributing to the arts market it has always made sense. And yet I don't think we ever really wondered about who would buy and why. As people who work in the arts and even own a few artworks it seem natural. We understand the value of a crafted piece of work above an Ikea print. So why don't other people?

Don't get me wrong, i'm sure there are tonnes of 'ordinary' people who like art and do buy it. Others might be tempted to buy but aren't sure how to go about it. Then there are also a huge number of people (like my Dad, for example) who simply think about nice pictures that match the paintwork and are quite happy to spend £12-£20 on a print from the high street. And what is wrong with that? Well, nothing, I suppose, except it serves no purpose. Surely they might as well not bother? They aren't buying them in the hope that people will admire them are they? How often will they look at them? Surely a print that is the same custard colour as the walls will gradually blend in and become invisible - more often than not it was never noteworthy in the first place. I sound like a snob don't I? Oh, dear.

For those of us who do buy art for our homes, why do we?

I bought some artowrks for my new flat (I am ashamed to admit over a year later that none of them yet adorn the walls as I'm a little timid about putting holes in my pristine walls... so they, along with my full length mirror, are propped up against them and freestanding on my chest of drawers until someone who isn't afraid and owns a drill comes to visit). But why did I buy them? I am often attracted by the colours. So perhaps I feel that these images represent aspects of my personality. One is simply a photograph of a place I love. Is there is alot of ego in buying art? Do we want something that says something about us - that we have taste, are flambouyant, are intellectual, artistic that we care about how our environment looks as much as how we look?

I also enjoy having something attractive to look at and that itself can't be discounted but surely I couldn've found something cheaper? I probably could but I didn't and I'm still not exactly sure why that is. This could go on for a while...