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.

Dates galore – Company of Wolves and Allen Jeffery

It has been a while and now is the time to add some new dates for upcoming performances.

Burn the Curtain continue taking The Company of Wolves on the road this spring. Three venues are lined up and the details are as follows:

Cwmcarn Forest, Caerphilly, South Wales, NP11 7FA

April 7th, 8th and 9th 2016

Tickets: www.blackwoodminersinstitute.com

Durlston Country Park, Swanage, Dorset, BH19 2JL

April 21st, 22nd and 23rd 2016

Tickets: www.durlston.co.uk or call 01929 424443

Delamere Forest, near Frodsham, Cheshire, CW8 2JD

May 5th, 6th, and 7th 2016

Tickets: www.boxoffice.forestry.gov.uk 03000 680 400

Also my first solo show makes a return this time as part of the second Plymouth Fringe:

The Life and Times of Allen Jeffery

The Nowhere Inn

May 31st, 3pm (more details to follow)

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!