Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Proximity And Connection

Pickering Castle at dusk
[Saturday 28 July] I've just been to see Slung Low's final part of the Converging Paths project called Story Book. It was a promenade performance and took place at Pickering Castle (which midges aside is a gorgeous venue for a piece of site specific performance) and I am left thinking, unsurprisingly, about audience interactions.

You see we were each given headphones and a receiver so we could hear the backing track and the performers clearly in am outdoor space. I understand that this is a very practical solution to roaming work where the audience may not always have the best vantage point but means they don't quite miss out on the action. Having the words spoken directly in their ear creates a certain sense of intimacy with the performers - they are all speaking directly to you. It also allows the company to control the audiences environment so that the only information they receive is what is fed to them.

I experienced something very similar once at Latitude Festival and it made a little more sense there in that context. We were intentional voyeurs, viewing at a distance without interacting in any way, dipping in and out of the stories of other 'festival goers'. And while it made sense to me I found the whole experience rather cold. It was sort of like watching an outdoor television show.

As a technique, I don't enjoy it. I don't like how it isolates me from my fellow audience members. I feel penned in to my own body and my own little cocoon. Even though I know others are having the same experience as me I feel restricted and cut off which, while it doesn't really detract from my experience of the story, does go against one of the fundamental reasons why I go to live events. I spend enough time in my own head. I go to the theatre to be amongst other people. To feel a part of something bigger than myself rather than a passive spectator. I can do that at home. Perhaps I could reach out to others but I am wary because of the headphones. I might speak too loudly and embarrass myself. Of course, you say, this is a performance, why would you be talking? That is the festival context though isn't it? We are free, free from seating, walls and the 'normal' theatre etiquette aren't we? The rules are muddled here. I am not sure of my place and so I am doubly cautious.

This is not to say that I didn't enjoy Story Book at all, just that it confirmed for me what I place most importance on in performance work and the bearing this has on my own practice and I wanted to unpick that a little.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Diamonds In The Rough - A Post Show Analysis

So in the aftermath of my second Scratch (for anyone stumbling across this who doesn't know; a Scratch is a showing of unfinished performance work) performance of One, at Northern Stage, I am left with the arduous task of sorting the wheat from the chaff...

First thoughts are that it was definitely a useful experience. Useful to try the same material on a less familiar audience to see how I navigate having fewer shared points of reference. In Leeds I built my confidence by directing certain comments to friends knowing they would be easier to draw in to a kind of dialogue as there was a pre-existing rapport. The piece has direct points of contact built in which, I hope, break some of those barriers with a more unknown quantity so it will be interesting to see the written feedback and how the audience felt we were 'getting along'. They certainly gave off a very friendly vibe.

And yet I was actually disappointed with myself in this section. I didn't find my feet quite as well as I had in Leeds. I fluffed some lines and got a couple of bits the wrong way round. I tried to keep it fresh for myself by interjecting new information but this just served to unsettle me a little.

The totally interactive and majorly improvised new section about Imaginary Friends at the end went surprisingly smoothly despite my utter fear at throwing it so open to the audience (something I have never done before). I've already had some useful feedback on how this could be more inventive and democratically playful for me and the audience, allowing more people to have input in a slightly 'safer' space. So I won't say too much about that here. I have no idea if it will even stay in the show but it was great to just give it a go, to take a chance in the space, and have it embraced so generously. This should be what Scratch is for, right?

I had mixed feelings about the cassette tape section at the beginning. It had no natural place. Though I like it as an idea I didn't like where it sat. I had to put it at the beginning out of necessity rather than desire. But the tape/player itself has become quite important as it resonates quite deeply with me. Now I need to work out how it weaves with rest of the fabric of the show. Though at this point I do not want it to dictate anything. I wonder about the next Scratch at Emerge in September and whether that should be entirely tape based? Hmmm...

What is clear is that documentation is becoming more and more important to the piece both as a tool for making and reflection but also the presentation. This makes me wonder about who my collaborators should be at this point and if there are significant changes to be made (and here I apologise to my producer Gloria for the kittens this may give her)?

My thanks to the team at Northern Stage, who made me so very welcome for two days in their building.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

What Might Be In The Show

When Rabbit Damage were making the show in Berwick we made a video called What Isn't In The Show and it was just a bit of a giggle and an attempt at viral marketing... since the show wasn't finished and we didn't want to give too much away.

Today I am rehearsing for One and mostly thinking about what might be in the show and trying not to get too boggled. On Thursday I have a scratch showing at First in Three at Northern Stage and mostly I am looking forward to trying out what I already have (what I did at The Carriageworks for Emerge in June) on a different, slightly less partisan, audience. But I'd also like to share something new and this is where my problems begin. I feel like I have spent so long shelving things to come back to later that I don't know where to start.

I guess this is where a collaborator would come in handy. We would discuss the merits of each and see which sparks the most interest. We could vote on which we would prefer to get stuck in to. We could play Paper, Scissors, Stone or have a thumb war. We could agree to take one idea each and try stuff out on each other... But there is no-one else here (Yes, Jaye, who's stupid idea was that then?).

So here I am, with a long list of wonderful things to play with. What to do first?

This show may contain: sex dolls, memories, cassette tapes, love letters to long distance lovers, Bros, the charts, my Dad, CCTV, video diaries, dancing, audio archaeology, Pillowman, internet dating, dining alone, desert islands, the zombie apocolypse, games, Chobitz, monophobia, Bridget Jones and imaginary friends.