On Friday 1st February I spent a day with Kate Fox. All part of my grand plan to learn from other artists, to bring fresh energy in to the rehearsal room and to explore other processes in the making of One.Kate has recently turned her writing and comedic talents to making theatre and I was interested to hear how/if her process had changed much as a result.
We spent some time on creating material from stream of consciousness, how applying an attitude (we worked with the seven deadly sins for a while) to a perfectly ordinary situation can create humour. We played with ‘it’s worse than that’ and took ideas to the absolute worst case scenario. Just so you know, if the show bombs and I damage my reputation so badly I can no longer be a theatre maker and I end up as a cancerous prostitute, living in a doorway… I told you so!
Exaggeration is fun and freeing. I really think there may be room for this in the piece in order to soften the blow of the more melancholy aspects of being alone.
I was also interested in her experience of stand-up and how she felt this enhanced her theatre performances.
We talked a lot about autobiographical material and the risks/fears involved. What we felt we could and couldn’t share. I am particularly concerned about revealing personal things about myself that may lead to me being judged, or worse pitied, by the audience thereby tainting the rest of the show. But I am also aware that for a connection to feel real and for the work to have impact I need to be honest. Kate suggested that if I held anything back the audience would be able to tell.
I think this is where her experience in stand-up comes in. She had strong opinions on the liveness of the live experience and offered a particularly painful example of a performer losing her trust by referring to another audience member’s physical appearance making it clear they weren’t really looking at or talking about them at all. She couldn’t understand why and I can totally understand her dislike of entirely scripted interactions that could be shown to any audience in any location and never change. What she and I both love is a genuine connection, acknowledgement of the current shared space. To quote open space technology, “Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened”. A little more freedom to be real and responsive. To be truly live takes confidence that you can control your audience. Perhaps that is the gift of the comedian?
We spent some time watching a selection comedians entrances, noticing how most acknowledge the audience directly, often refer to the room or city and make comment about someone in the room. As if to say, “Yes, I am really here. With you.”
This has made me very conscious of my audience interactions because as a frequent attender of small studio spaces I know how quickly we can tell when we are being talked at or near rather than to. I don’t think I am in danger of making a piece of performance that could happen anywhere and that members of the audience will feel that they might as well have not been there but how much more rich might it feel for them to feel it was specific to them. That their experience, even if part of a tour, was unique. I wonder if I can produce that in my show? I hope so.
I’d really like to thank Kate for her time and generosity, and Annabel at ARC for making it happen.