Good afternoon, Bazzers! Have we got a treat for you! We've heard from one brilliant trainee directors Stephen Lloyd and now Elizabeth Bacon steps into the breach for us. Not to get misty-eyed (watch this space) but we have been so lucky to appoint Stephen and Liz as so much more than trainees: workshop givers, post-show talks, and general support. dreamplay is not a usual production and we have found creative professionals more than happy to give us their support, time and creativity. Like the title says: we make good choices. What? No, there's nothing in our eyes? Ahem. Anyway. Here is fresh new blog from Liz mid-dream at The Vaults, Waterloo...
Things As They Are
I wrote a blog post a while ago about how audiences respond to theatre; about how every one of us is an expert at deciding whether a performance was effective or not, because theatre, in my thinking, is about making audiences feel. How exciting then that I can’t tell you whether, or how, a piece of theatre will make you feel, that no-one can. How wonderfully democratic that we each come at it from our own starting point and that no-one is more expert at being an audience member than anyone else.
Working as a trainee director on ‘dreamplay’ with Baz Productions, at The Vaults in (in fact, under) Waterloo, I’ve come back to this again- I’ve been thinking about theatre performance and narrative, and the pressure to ‘get it’, or not. Inspired by Strindberg’s original, the play is about dreams and the dreamer, about how we experience dreams- how we see them, hear them, how they make us think, feel and what they do to us. Placing the audience as dreamer, the play immerses us into the world of a series of different and sometimes related dreams, as we pass through different spaces in The Vaults and the 8:05pm train to Woking rumbles over-head.
Actually- it’s sort of about those things. And here’s where I think it gets interesting; it’s open, it doesn’t tell the audience what to think or feel, rather it presents us with a series of things that are played so truthfully and with such life and openness, that they are little presents in themselves. This openness is central to the Director, Sarah Bedi’s, process, which from the outset was about working with a group of curious and committed performers to find the game in each scene, and to play that hard, and differently, every night. This was never about blocking, fixing or choreography, this was about finding the game and keeping it alive and engaging for the performers and audience alike.
What struck me about ‘dreamplay’ is that each scene tells a different story, and there are links, and echoes, and gifts in each one, but there isn’t a coherent whole. Or rather, the coherent whole is the audience’s journey through the piece, the dreamer, taking part, experiencing, feeling and engaging. This isn’t a trick- there isn’t a story that you’re ‘meant’ to unearth, there’s a narrative framework- Agnes, a kind of angel-figure, comes to earth to find out why human beings are sad- but, really, understanding that (or not) shouldn’t alter your experience of it. What I love about this play is the beauty and commitment of each moment, each performer, the feel, smell and acoustics of each space. What I take away from it is a series of beautiful things that brought goosebumps to my arms, laughter to my belly, tears to my eyes and a pleasant shooting sensation down my back.
Now, let me be honest- as an audience member, I’m often guilty of needing to know the meaning- what I’m meant to learn, the joke I’m meant to be in on, the irony I’m meant to raise an eyebrow at, who I’m meant to trust, who I’m meant to be suspicious of- I want to get ahead so I can be ‘in’. It’s a test, and I want to pass, please. That creates a fair whack of anxiety, often leaving me dissatisfied and prone to blame (I’m working on it). But what if there is nothing to ‘get’. What if it’s up to each of us to feel and respond to a piece of theatre as we will, and if that means taking away five 2 minute segments where some beautiful movement sequence felt like freedom, or a wail hit so poignantly and hard at grief it made you hold your breath, or a light and a shadow felt like being 5 years old again, or an argument felt so totally yours, you realised you needed to apologise- well, what if that’s enough.
I think there’s a big responsibility here with theatre makers- directors, performers, designers and their creative teams – to connect to and engage audiences in a way that they feel safe and confident to respond to a piece in a manner that is totally their own, because that is so much more robust and profound than ‘getting it’, so much more flexible, personal, moving and ultimately, I think, much more valuable.
Liz's website can be found here: http://elizabethbacon.co.uk
Til Next Time, Bazzers! Sweet Dreams...