(The weekend is sort of Days 6 and 7 — I gave myself most of the time off, apart from doing some charity shop shopping for the show materials, but in that down time ideas are still gestating and making themselves ready, so let’s count them.)
After the big weekend shop, the morning was spent pulling all of the materials together. The show’s all about games and participation, so the props are really all just game materials, and the set is just arranging them in a way that makes the audience feel game for it. By which I mean, from the moment the audience come in, they need to know that there’s going to be participation and games and roleplaying, and they need to feel reasonably comfortable with it. Here’s a video with me enthusing about what fun it is to put this stuff together:
If you’ve never designed and run a roleplaying game, I highly recommend it. It has a lot of the fun of directing, a lot of the fun of improv performance, and all the charms of playing a really intricate board game on top of it — the balancing of game values, the scheming, the making of materials that get the participants excited. I think my approach to Class Act has been more informed by that gleeful fun than I expected.
In the afternoon, I brought in an audience for a scratchy sharing of the show so far. It’s actually more complete that I expected at this stage, so we did a rough run of the full thing. They were great — other artists and staff at the Ovalhouse, so a very engaged audience, including the young Box Office team. They were one of the most engaged and backchattiest audiences I’ve ever had for anything! It’s easy to plan for the contingency of the audience not participating at all, because there’s only one way that happens, but much harder to plan for lots of unexpected enthusiastic participation, so it was great to work with those folk.
The first thing I learned from it is that the show is definitely fun. We had a great laugh. This I’m really pleased about, because it’s so important to me that the audience enjoy themselves if I’m going to get properly political. And I hear from feedback that some of them were properly roused and angry by the end, which is another bonus. That means I feel like I’ve confirmed I’m on the right track.
The other side of that is that it was messier than I expected, and a few things that I thought would work just didn’t quite come off in performance. This is the danger of preparing largely by yourself — without enough outside eyes, you forget what assumptions you’re making about how it will work. But it’s good that this happened now, because it means I have defined problems to solve for the next two days.
This is the hardest stage of development — it’s easier to cut and change early on, when you’re not invested in each moment; now the cuts and changes feel more brutal. But also, if done right, more necessary and more satisfying. So the last two days are about making everything about this show as perfect as it can be — getting it all ready for big, unexpected audiences.