Sunday, 27 March 2011

Peaks and troughs of tension amongst other things

The aim for this session is to work on ‘performance’. Previously we’ve continued to make changes or generate material right up to the last minute so the performers are not always 100% clear on everything they are doing (ie the relationship with audience or the correlation of sound/action/thought – quite complex stuff) so this is time to attend to the areas where performers feel less sure and time to run the work so the performers get the benefit of repeating the work over and over again.

We begin by attending to tension. We’ve established the relationships and the blocking and the status shifts but the atmosphere isn’t always ‘right’ and the performers are on their own journeys rather than sharing a more collective one. The ‘way in’ to establishing the tension is to look at the peaks and troughs. The peaks are very much punctuated throughout, the bang of a hand on the table, a series of building glances to the audience, clock chimes followed by standing, an escape attempt, etc. etc. The troughs follow after the peaks so we search through the text, identifying the peaks (sometimes peaks come at slightly different times for each character – sometimes characters peak alone) and the dissipation of tension after these peaks.

Then we run the piece. It is a very solid and strong run.

The performers request that they spend some time running the work. I agree to hold back on note giving so that they have space to simply perform. The resulting runs are nowhere near as strong. I query this and the performers say that they are tired from the first very solid run and can’t reach the same level of intensity every time because of that.

Personally I think it’s because the runs are without an aim or an objective; I’ve taken the pressure off by agreeing not to give notes. I’m not sure how the performers can be happy or glean anything from running the work at a lesser standard once they’ve achieved something very strong initially or why they don’t strive to achieve the same level every time. It’s a bit of a mystery to me really but I give the performers the benefit of the doubt as I’m not personally delivering the performance so I don’t know what it feels like, how much energy is required to perform it or what the potential benefits are to the perfomer of simply running through at a slightly lesser level. Perhaps, as I continue along my journey I will find that this is typical and that it’s natural to also have peaks and troughs in energy and performance quality?

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