Now that the rough shape of the show’s together, the last two days have been about developing the text and the game design. Here’s me talking about the text development, and why it’s a bit different from developing a full script:
The innocent gestures of the spontaneous will always tell us complex and politically charged things about this very moment.
I’m realising, too, how much of what I’m doing with the text and design of this show is about stripping as much of the theatricality away from it as I can, while keeping it still an entertainment. Early on in the text I’ll say something like
You should know that this is it. There’s me, there’s you, there’s a screen, and there’s a bunch of stuff we’re going to play around with. I’ll do a good bit of the talking, but I’d like you to join in, and the whole thing’s going to go as informally as any pre-planned show can go. Relax.
There all sorts of aesthetic ideology bundled up in that disingenuous set of lines, and even for contemporary theatre audiences there’s nothing relaxing about acknowledging the theatre space (although it is sometimes dangerously comfortable artistic territory). But what it’s about, for me, is being as honest as a performer can be, and being totally clear with the audience about what’s happening as we spend time together.
That’s something I learned from playing games with audiences and designing interactions. For a game to work, the players need to understand the rules; for an audience to participate and enjoy it, you need to be clear what the contract with them is. They want to know what’s going on. One of the reasons the mores of fourth-wall-breaking turn up so often in this kind of thing is that performers are anxious to make the audience feel at ease with their uneasiness.
I don’t want you to think, though, that the show’s not going to be dramatic. It is, just in a different way. About half of the show is monologue, and about half of it is games with the audience — the structure’s all about using the one to support the other, and about building a dramatic tension in ways that aren’t about story. Theatre is about creating satisfying and important experiences for audiences, and story’s just one of those ways. I’m increasingly excited about the ways we’re going to create experiences together.
The show’s starting to settle down, so tomorrow I’m bringing some collaborators into the studio to shake it up again. I’ll be looking for feedback on what we’ve got so far, but also trying to get some new ideas out of them, to spin the show a little. Plus, it’ll be fun just to play.