Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Performance Evaluation II

Part two

It is 2am and I am still awake. I am suffering from the post-show adrenalin rush that my Dad and other members' of the drama group have talked about in the interviews. The show went well. The audience responded enthusiastically to the style and content and though some people thought it was 'different' it was a 'good different' not an 'indifferent'. The drama group was inspired by the positive reception and this was by far the best run we have done. The fact that my mum is mentioned early on in the text makes it seem a part of the action if she is called upon.

HARRY What happens if I forget one?

MICHAEL It's OK. My mum's the prompt.

There were some moments when the audience involved themselves in the performance. When one of the cast mentioned 'Big D' - a hardware shop that used to be a feature of the shopping parade in the 1980s - one of the audience was heard to say 'That's going back a bit.' When Harry said Kath was getting ready for the funeral. Someone in the audience whispered in a worried way 'Whose funeral?' For the mostpart the audience were happy to follow the fragmented narrative and perhaps the material that triggered more laughter than I thought it would served as an anchorpoint. The local connection was important but the content was not exclusively engaged with by the local community. In fact if there is a sense of community it is the audience themselves. The teabreak saw academics chatting with churchgoers. Solicitors talking to teachers. None of whom had met before the show. All of whom were sharing an act of communion.

There were technical hiccups. We lost four lanterns in two nights. Half way through the first show one of the two surviving lights fizzled out of action. The technician spent 20 minutes wandering around at the back of the church hall trying to fix it and so the show continued in half-light. The lights we did have had to be operated manually so the act of switching on and switching off was visible to the audience. The lighting stands were gaffer taped to the PVC windows and the curtains were open. This - in the same way as the installation - is somehow turning the mechanics of performance inside out. There is no pretense here. Apart from onstage. On and off.

I was asked to deliver the housekeeping duties. This lent an interesting circularity to the evening. I found myself saying 'Ladies and Gentlemen thank you all for coming etc.' The motif of my MC character recurring. Bookending the double bill. I was intrigued by how much this might frame or outline the context of performance, the boundaries of amateur dramatics. There was an interesting intervention during the tea break. My mum was serving tea and coffee on her own. Noone else from the drama group was available to help. Because they were all in costume they didn't want to be seen in the auditorium before the show. Their costumes are their own clothes and in fact one of them is dressed in his own clothes as a caterer - so it seems odd to feel too in character to cater. Anyway it was resolved but it raised interesting questions about presence and pretense. We are there but we are not there. We are ourselves but we are not ourselves. We are onstage but we are pretending to be offstage. We are offstage but we are pretending to be onstage. We are the Church on Rise Park Drama Group but when do we stop performing.

I am proud of Acts of Communion. I am proud of the process. I am proud of the product. I am proud of how it has developed my thinking and relocated my practice. This evaluation will continue over time. We will edit a film for the drama group. Compile photographic and written documentation. But this is the end. The MA finishes next week. The written deadline is today. There are some people I have to thank. The Church on Rise Park Drama Group. The audience. Kevin Edwards for constant support. Frank Abbott. Alain Ayers. All at NTU. Any others for whose ommission from this list I sincerely apologise.


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