Monday, 21 February 2011

Reflections on Bradford Theatre in the Mill

The performance at Bradford goes smoothly. Nothing is missed or wrong footed on stage although I realise I have forgotten to organise music for the pre-set and it’s such a wild and windy night that it’s hard to differentiate between the soundtrack and the noise outside.

The Mill space is cavernous and the sound should have been checked more diligently as the acoustics are absorbing the noise. My bad. As well as Frank Jnr. the soundscape has been a little neglected over the past week and one of the things I’ll take away from the showing is the need to build more sound in and more time to develop sound through the process (and during time when the performers are not present I think).

Harriet (Jean) and Arnold (Pete) give exciting performances that I haven’t seen in rehearsal so far. The presence of the audience really brings a new dynamic. The type of auditorium/seating and the shape of the theatre changes the performance. Harriet instinctively grasps for a larger, more externalised performance at Bradford Theatre in the Mill. It makes sense, as the piece is essentially a direct address to the audience that they play their part

Audience feedback is reassuring. We’ve recorded the feedback and I may transcribe & publish it at some point but for now I offer an overview.

The response from the audience is generally warm and their answers to the questions I have prepared show that what we intended is coming across. It’s encouraging that their response to ‘how much can you take – how long can you sit through this?’ is that they can take more of it. A lot more in some cases. And they’re satisfied that no-one should ever speak on stage.

Some people feel that it would be interesting to see the family taken out of their comfort zone (ie away from their home and out into the world they fear). Another audience member is adamant that they should remain in their home. Someone mentions forces coming in from outside. We’ve improvised before where there was a letter received. I’ve toyed with the idea of bringing a telephone into it…I’m really interested in this as an avenue for exploration.

When asked ‘what are you hearing?’ one audience member says ‘mental health’. With hindsight I should have probed further into this as there’s still slight concern that Arnold might be perceived as being ill in some way, and this is not our intention.

Another concern is that it’s not clear that Arnold is an adult.

And I continue to receive thoughts by email/facebook after the event. I can’t describe how flattering it is to get this kind of correspondence! And there’s some really useful feedback in these exchanges – things that have come to mind after the event, things that folk didn’t feel entirely comfortable saying at the feedback session. I get a sense of what lingers…

And my own personal feedback?

Lack of cohesion comes to mind. To me it feels a bit thrown together. I’m disappointed to have lost the dark edge/feel to the piece; the new material has a different tone. I want to re-set the tone to re-discover the misery and desperation we established initially.

We’ve achieved a lot in a week, in terms of what we’ve created and what we’ve learned. The week has gone well in many ways, but I have yielded to the pressure of the showing at the end of the week felt duty bound to make work. Time constraints have compromised quality of the outcome a little. We’ve had to put it together quickly.

I feel the piece needs to be taken in hand, to be pared back to something more essential. Less wordy, more soundy with performances more deeply resonant and darker, it needs to be more unhappy… We’re copping out a bit by going down the comedy route…

The issues of Arnold appearing mentally/physically ill in some way need to be ironed out, and his age and the tragedy of his circumstances need to be more clearly communicated. Which ever messages we are giving out need to be finely tuned, to make sure we’re not accidentally saying things we oughtn’t be.

Something in me wants to see something more abstract. The ‘distraction scene’ where the devices in the home torment the family are most interesting to me. There could be more of this and of these.

How little can we get away with telling of this story? Can we move it into more abstract/artsy/installation territory? Can we retain the story telling? Should we try to take this route?

The ‘documentary’ aspects of it, the fact the audience are addressed and are acknowledged in their watching, like an intrusion works, but could we pare the words back and ‘tell’ much less?

I can hear the documentary as more of a background echo…I can hear the sound layer upon layer...many, many clocks. I can see this piece as being terribly uncomfortable to watch…

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you enjoyed this - you may enjoy Butley at the Duchess Theatre in London from 31 May to 27 August. This is a great play, starring Dominic West and Paul McGann in a classic revival by Simon Gray. Visit for more information.