This post was meant to be written some weeks ago, rather than almost a month after the end of the show. I’d hoped to give some very immediate reflections on the audiences and that final show high — but it wasn’t to be. That’s something that often happens with blogging projects — and a combination of no longer paying myself for my time and having a huge backlog of other work has seen me putting it off til now. But that means I can now look back on the project with some distance, with enough time for it all to sink in. Here we go.
I ended up making a much more close-to-finished project than I’d expected. For a seed commission and a two week development period, we ended up with a really cohesive show, a piece that just needed refining and polishing rather than a half-built experiment. That’s probably partly because was burning to make it — that I felt very clearrly the urgency of talking about what we were talking about. That, and the practical factors: a supportive venue and a half decent budget.
Some other things about what I made took me by surprise. a big one, gratifyingly, is that it ended up being really fun. The audience very evidently had a great time every night. I always aim at having some fun for the audience, but this show felt like a total blast. I know now that this needs to be a much bigger part of the marketing — it’ll help people get over the political theatre hump is I talk more about the fun. “The most fun you’ll ever have while declaring class war” is probably a good line.
Another big one, strange to have at the same time, is that it was much angrier and much more forthright politically than I’d originally intended — it ended up being much more activist than I’d planned. I wanted to do the project to work out what I thought about class, and early on in the research period I started to figure it out and ended up really wanting to shout about it. Now that I’ve got that out of my system, I think the next iteration, while still being forthright, will have more subtlety and uncertainty about it.
A last surprise was that at least one person in every audience told me that they thought the show would work really well in schools. For something as deliberately radical and with as many of the trappings of performance art as this show, that’s pretty gratifying — but also confusing. It wasn’t a direction I’d planned to take the show. Should I? Can it be a classroom and an art venue piece? How would I make that happen?
The biggest failure was narrative. I’d wanted the show to feel like it had a solid narrative arc — not a story, but a coherent intellectual and emotional journey. Too many people told me that it felt bitty for that to have succeeded. Given that making the show really was a process of coming to understand class for me, the easiest fix would be to give it a personal narrative frame — talk about my own changing understanding. This has the added advantage of making me seem less expert and teacherly, and more on the same level as the audience.
Working heavily with games opened up whole new possibilities for me. I’ve used game elements before, but not to the same depth as in this show. There’s a lot of development that can be done here — a lot of tweaking to make the mechanics perfect. It’s difficult to talk about this without spoiling some stuff! But I know it’s one of the other major areas to develop.
What else? Next time round, I want to be able to pay someone to work on it with me as a full-time pair of outside eyes. I was happy to work by myself, but I’m going to need that collaborative dialogue to make it as good as it could be. I need to perfect the delivery, my stance as performer. I also need to do some cutting and switching on the monologue parts, to make them flow better. And there’s a hundred other bits to fix — there always is.
It’s going to have to wait until the autumn, though. I’m off to Italy next month with This is not a riot, and then it’s Edinburgh’s summer festivals — a busy period of work for me and a vortex that sucks in everyone’s time for a month on either side. But the aim is to have a few months of development in the autumn and winter, ready to do a full strength run in the spring, support willing. See you soon.