Saturday, 6 October 2012

Identifying the 'story impulse'

These are the notes from the point during our residency at The Lowry where I explained to everyone why Museum of Terrifying Example would not be 'a play about...'

Anna kept having what I described as 'story impulses' in response to the material being generated. Her imagination kept taking her on tangents that had story logics.

Every time Anna did this the performers visibly relaxed
as if they were on territory much more familiar to them. So I would have to come in and make sure these trajectories were nipped in the bud. I felt quite mean doing this. I don't like to clamp down when people are being creative and imaginative but especially at the beginning I had to make it crystal clear that Museum of Terrifying Example was not about story.

I explained as follows :

For me story impulses or logics that we're conditioned to recognise through being exposed to story from birth can be rather restrictive. Story structures filter meaning and association and a lot of the work is done for the viewer/reader/audience by the author when crafted in this way. There's nothing 'wrong' with a story, putting these notes down I'm realising that by doing the meaning-making work for the viewer/reader/audience the author is creating a framework for a wonderful imaginative journey and putting the viewer/reader/audience in an open and receptive position which is generous and lovely. But that's just not what I do. I don't 'speak' in stories. I don't really want to tell stories, I want to share experiences and resonances and bring about insights and understandings that are transformational in some way. Stories can do these things, yes. But that's just not how my brain is wired. I don't experience life in a linear story-structured way, my experience is wonderfully abstract, strange and elliptical and very much inspired by the information flow of 21st Century life, fast, fragmented, bombarding, multi-faceted, multi-media, simultaneous, sophisticated, repetitive. I'm making associations and meanings constantly that I don't even understand yet, and everyone around me is doing the same on some level. We take in information and experience in new, ever advancing ways and that's how my brain is constructing information and making meaning.

I believe that audiences are very sophisticated, even if they don't realise that they are. I've had quite a lot of feedback from previous performances which began with 'I didn't understand it' and conclude with a reasonable accurate summary of exactly what I was trying to communicate. I'm aiming for a polymorphic read, where each audience member comes away with their own personal insight. The performance should be a stimulus for that, an inkblot test upon which they can project their own thoughts and feelings. Though, saying that, for me, a play with a story is also a polymorphic read with every audience member also having their own unique experience. (At this point I started to ponder how I could really differentiate the audience's experience - but that's another blog post entirely). So really I'm not so far from the original. I'm just doing it in a different way.

The story impulses have been written down and put in a drawer for future use. It may be that they come into play further down the line. I do feel that when the team has a strong shared logic for the work, the resonance is stronger and clearer and it may be that these story logics come into play as directorial interpretations of the constructed material at a later date.

The fact that these story impulses keep occurring and the performer's reactions to them (of relief, recognition) suggest to me that there's more work to be done on my part of bringing everyone onto the same page.

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