Despite the fact that things in WBN Towers are frightfully busy I have been trying to see as much theatre as possible.
As such, I have been fortunate enough to see three shows recently from three companies that I have always wanted to see and have always respected (until now, from afar). It has been a while since I saw each show but they have stuck with me in different ways.
First up was Unlimited Theatre’s show MONEY the game show (which I saw at the Bush). I have always wanted to see a piece by Unlimited (especially because Corinne is always going on about a show she saw of their’s in Leeds). This one did not disappoint. I think the main thing that has stuck with me is how satisfying it can be to see Money on stage… and on this occasion I actually mean in production values and literally. Firstly, the set made me feel like I genuinely was an audience member of a dodgy game show on Channel 5 (sorry C5). This really added to the fun and games that we as an audience took part in. This made the story (and our implication in the end) all the more satisfying and thought provoking. Money well spent methinks. The thing that trumped the production values however was the ACTUAL MONEY on stage. Ten thousand shiny pound coins, stacked on stage. Thrown around as if they were worthless, almost as if a pound coin only has value because we believe it has…
I do wonder if this will be the last show I ever see where a bouncer is required for insurance reasons as well. Nothing like a heavy in the room to add to the gravitas of the situation. The stats and figures the show gave towards the end might also be one of the most haunting things I have seen in a theatre… that’s numbers for you.
The second show I want to talk about is Fevered Sleeps‘ Above Me The Wide Blue Sky. I recently had the good fortune of doing a workshop with Kaite O’Reilly on Alternative Dramaturgies (she has a splendid blog if you aren’t aware of it) and one of the many things I found interesting from the workshop was how she spoke about work: the rhythm of it, the repetitions, the movement, the sound – far more in terms of qualities of music than maybe I would myself. It was in this mindset that I really engaged with Above Me The Wide Blue Sky. Like how my mind might wander at a concert, my mind wandered during this show. I found myself reflecting on its themes, looking for the repetitions, trying to find patterns and rhythms. My mind would drift and suddenly snap back at an image envoked by the performer that clearly struck something in my brain.
I think when we go to the theatre (especially in the 21st Century with the way TV has wired us up) we have expectations to be engaged, constantly stimulated and that we are going to be ‘active’ throughout a whole show as it take us on a (narrative) journey. It was refreshing to see a show that did not do this, but instead worked in the same way a classical concert might. It allowed the mind to wander – and that was okay, not some fatal flaw in its dramaturgy. The ‘feel’ of this show has stuck with me far more than anything else – a feel of calmness but also loss. A lament for nature. This show has affected me more as if it were a song, which I find myself humming every so often.
The final production I find myself writing about is dreamthinkspeak’s In the Beginning Was The End. I do love a bit of promenade site specific. Wandering around a building and delving underground – in a space I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise. That was satisfying in its self. But this show really provided some powerful images, and the level of detail achieved for such a big project was really impressive. The main image that stuck with me was all the Customer Service workers shedding their clothes, and looking down from atop a spiral staircase at the audience looking up. This worked on so many levels for me. Firstly, there was the cycle of the workers leaving work, shedding their clothes and always going back – always going back to work. That repetition that necessity wouldn’t let them escape. But then there was the audience reactions themselves and how they fed in to it. After all, was had naked people. In front of us. Thus student girls were laughing and pointing at male bits, student guys were either being blokey or looking embarrassed. And that was just the student crowd. You had every audience reaction you could expect and, whilst the audience were looking up at them, gathered around a spiral staircase, the naked performers are looking down. Aware of this reaction and looking all the more sad for it. And then they go back to work, repeat the same process and wait for the next set of wandering audience to react in the same predictable manner. I watched this happen a couple of times.
I reckon I’m going to struggle to find another image this year quite so powerful and though provoking, without a single word being uttered.
Charlie of WBN