The Incidental Performance

In more standard theatre venues what you do before entering a scene is wait. In the wings or the dressing room typically. Maybe the corridor you’ve strolled through to get to the wings. You wait with your fellow cast members and try to keep quiet.

When it comes to outdoor theatre, you end up in some odd places waiting. These can range from car parks to antique chests, behind trees to dirty great holes in the ground. Sometimes with your colleagues, often not. The only company you can have for a while are your own thoughts or maybe an animal or two. In the dark on your own, if there’s a bustle in your hedgerow try not to be alarmed.

What happens when you inevitably meet a member of the public? That person who isn’t part of the show but who’s day and environment you’ve just made a little bit odd?

These encounters are usually brief and to the point;

“What’s all this about then?”

You learn to distill the entire plot. You become adept at directing people to websites to try and sell that last remaining ticket.

Not all encounters are like that. Some will stay back and just watch you. You’re bordering on an installation. Carrying out a mundane task for you becomes a fascination. What is a man dressed like that doing with a bunch of sticks with fairly lights on? Occasionally I feel a bit like this:

Who knows what those who have a nice distance shot are thinking? Others will want a photograph, so a quick pose and off they go.

A man was in the middle of a phone call once whilst I was waiting. Within his conversation he said to whomever was on the other end – “There’s a bloke in trainers and wings just… standing.” No enquiry as to why I was standing there. He moved on a minute before 40 people dressed in red ran up a big hill. He would have had a lovely view, and his quizzical look would have been partially answered. Oh well! I often wonder what the other person said.

Then we move onto the more involved micro-interactions. I once gave a couple of gentlemen a mini-lecture on George Merryweather whilst being George Merryweather. One of them furiously jotted down notes. All this whilst stood on a lovely little bridge in Watchet, from which I was dangling an enamel cup attached to string over a steam and within that cup was a liquorice slug. That didn’t interest them in the slightest.

A couple of women stopped me once to say how much they loved my odd socks. I was arresting poets at the time, so asked if they saw any would they help me? They laughed and cheerily pronounced they would aid and abet their crime! Good day madams!

During my last tour, I have a task where I ask my group to gather sticks. A small moment in the grand scheme. After the show I’m wrestling with a barrier to the let a car out of the venue. I’m still in costume. A young woman darts across the road towards me, who I recognise from the show that evening. Reaching me she hands me a stick. I give the appropriate character response “That’s a nice stick”. Away she goes without saying a word. The performance was resurrected one last time a few hours after it ended.

Does all this mean anything? Well I like to think I’m doing my bit for Kayfabe! Also it reinforces that particularly once in costume, any number of things can happen. Even though we’re still trying to control as much as possible, this type of performance is open to the elements. As we know the elements will shape whatever it comes in contact with. I wasn’t trained for that as I was taught in the very controlled environment of rehearsal rooms and theaters. We briefly puncture each others realities – that person going for a stroll and me waiting for the show.

A very select audience get a bespoke interaction. Unplanned, very rarely unwelcome and can be great fun.

The Hunting of the Snark

‘Tis the season for new outdoor theatre. I type this as it’s snowing outside, which for a Plymothian is an odd sensation. It’s also one of the few conditions I have yet to perform in. That is why we stick to spring and autumn. Which leads me nicely onto Burn the Curtain’s new show for 2018:

The Hunting of the Snark

Tickets available here for:

HALDON FOREST April 5th, 6th, 7th

SUTTON MANOR COMMUNITY WOODLAND April 19th, 20th, 21st

HAMSTERLY FOREST  May 3rd, 4th 5th

Join the Butcher, the Banker, the Broker, the Barrister and the Bonnetmaker as they hunt for the ever elusive Snark. Take an unforgettable journey through the forest in Burn the Curtain’s new adaptation of this classic poem by Lewis Carroll (author of Alice in Wonderland).

Come prepared for adventure and with your much needed help, we will make a fresh attempt to find the Snark. Please wear appropriate clothing and footwear, and don’t forget your torch…

There are some extra dates for later in the year and a little added something that will be with in the next month. For further details, tickets visit http://burnthecurtain.co.uk/ or https://forestry.gov.uk/snarkhunter

 

Brighton Festival 2015

Having returned and finally recovered from a week of running (and a spot of lugging) another Brighton Festival is put to bed. The Company of Wolves made it’s first outing of 2015 following its last showing in Halloween last year. We got to run around a large park on the outskirts of Brighton with lots of varied spaces ranging from woods, open flat areas, hills (always one somewhere), ponds, mountain bike trails and a church called Stanmer Park.

A hectic week and with the help of some cracking volunteers, who stuck it out in some pretty shocking weather, we another Argus Angel! This now adds to our previous triumph with Don Quixote by Bicycle. Also balances the directors mantel piece nicely. As always the Brighton crowd were most certainly ‘up for it’. When an audience bring along that kind of energy it doesn’t have help an actor who has to run or walk with them!

Here are a couple of reviews:

https://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/2015/company-wolves/

http://www.theargus.co.uk/leisure/arts_and_entertainments/12939449.Brighton_Festival__The_Company_of_Wolves__Stanmer_Park__until_Saturday__May_9__01273_709709/

Hopefully we’ll return another year, but that is a distant future. Next up for Burn the Curtain and Company of Wolves is the Ageas Salisbury International Arts Festival 2015. We will be performing at Longleat House! For details on tickets visit: https://www.salisburyfestival.co.uk/detail.php?id=313

Till whenever

Hoooowwwwwlllllllllll!

Performing in French.

Following a week away in France to perform Don Quixote by Bicycle, we took the decision early on to perform in French. The brief was clear – start with only the pertinent information. Now that is more then applicable in English with participatory theatre. Our job(s) is to make sure the audience is aware of what has to happen, why, and what they need to do to help. So I took too reducing my lines into informative and instructive. My dialogue in English is neither flowery, nor heavy. Sancho Panza shouldn’t ever really be giving speeches!

The process of reducing it down to merely one sentence a go meant the translation could be simpler. I speak no French – at all. So then we work on stresses, pronunciation just to make it legible to the French ear. Granted it is a worry, as we rely on the conversation with an audience. We need response, to reaffirm our clarity as well as engaging with the story. Breakthrough moments came during rehearsals where passers by would watch and respond. It all appeared understandable to them, which was good.

One of the main points I have taken away from it, are the jokes. Reduced to mere two or three word replies, they got the same laughs. Perhaps my lines in English, at those points, don’t need to be so wordy. They still achieve the same result, but sometimes with unnecessary words.

Although we only got to perform the one show, there have been new approaches learnt. I am not advocating a complete reduction – characters like Don Quixote positively thrive off words. But for the sake of a joke or instruction, sometimes simple, clean and precise works best.

Don Quixote by Bicycle

Don Quixote finally set off on it’s adventure last Friday. Sadly the weather for the first show decided to rain non-stop. Soggy actors and audience persevered though! Cyclists are hardy people and this goes along with outdoor theatre/performance of any kind. You keep going, as long as it’s safe to. The audience hopefully appreciate it, as we appreciate them sticking with us! They were troopers, the youngest on a bike being a girl of around 4 or 5. She kept going and the company have nothing but the upmost respect for her!

Sunday provided gorgeous weather and as a result a sold-out and energised audience. It’s incredible how their interaction can affect how you see/play your character. That afternoon it firmly clicked into place and helped upped my performance as well as try a few new things out.

All in all a good start, and another weekend to go in Exeter. Tickets are selling well so take the chance and join in the adventure on your bicycle.

Don Quixote by Bicycle

Don Quixote by Bicycle has been officially launched! Burn the Curtain have details on their website for this summers new show http://burnthecurtain.wordpress.com/the-adventures-of-don-quixote/

We participated in Sky Ride in Plymouth on 13th May. Whilst myself and my colleage Richard Pulman cycled around the Hoe and the city in character on our bikes, workshops ran where children and adults could decorate their bikes to add some sparkle in the sun.

Yours truly will be playing Sancho Panza, which again requires myself to be kitted out in a fake belly. This I usually double up with a beard for reasons I’ve never fully understood…

Here I am in The Herald: http://www.thisisplymouth.co.uk/PICTURES-Thousands-cycle-Plymouth-Sky-Ride/story-16077631-detail/story.html

The costume was designed and made by Meier Williams. Dapple the Donkey was designed and made by Ruth Webb and the energetic chaps from Bike Space Plymouth helped get the bike into an actor proof condition!