All entries for Tuesday 25 January 2011
January 25, 2011
This weeks ICW task is a short narrative from the 'other' perspective. The original perspective was lifted from Rebecca Payne's blog. How's that for intertextuality?
Annette seemed bent on bleeding the last watery saps of our anaemic conversations and taking them with tea. The Yoga class had been physically unbearable; my hips aching and my back involuntarily twitching throughout the lotus-to-half-moon-sunshine move that was supposed to engage my brain, soul and pelvic floor muscles in one invasive movement, but which actually consisted of me squirming around on a bed-mat like an armless prostitute trying to hold out a hand for payment, and even the simple moves were wracked with the guilt of trying to suppress and quietly filter digestive wind. Despite this, Annette’s conversation represented a new low. A patchwork of pointless memories and comments on our surroundings, she managed to bridge the gap between directionless and inarticulate. I could only pray that she would have no access to a conversational-source like television or, worse, the internet during our arduous rendezvous, as I assumed these would provide her with inexhaustible observational material and ultimately drive me to suicide.
Coming through her own front door she tripped on the mat. Attempting to impress upon her the importance of my schedule, and beginning to suffer from the effects of a caffeine and Ritalin binge I had engaged in in order to stick to this schedule, I talked quickly; pre-empting her, knocking off the last few words, literally talking over her until she stopped. Somehow, she kept on trying to talk, inanely, until I had swallowed her entire conversational repertoire and effectively communicated the fact that I was not much of a listener.
But instead of encouraging me to leave, she just went quiet. This left me standing, rattling away like an engine, talking about things I really didn’t give a damn about like schools, the Middle East and Yoghurt. I began to wonder whether she was in some way deficient when she got down on her knees and began staring into the fireplace, mumbling ‘my father... twisted ... to start ... to firestarters. hmm. lovely.’ Terrified that her new fireplace, which even I could tell was a cheap electric without a chimney and necessitated no firestarters, was resurfacing repressed memories of father-daughter fire abuse, and worried that I was about to be their first victim since some techno-induced spate in the early nineties (when at least most houses actually had chimneys), I turned my attention to the carpet. ‘Is this new, Annette?’, I said, my eyes wide with terror.
“What Jean? Sorry? No, no that came with the house.” She trailed back-off into what I could only imagine was a reverie about a Ceilidh in a barn that she had doused with petrol and lit with the cigarette-lighter from her arsonist Dad’s Ford Escort.
“It’s so plush, Annette.”
Come back to me Annette, you were boring before but now you’re too much to handle.
Annette mumbled something about Peppermints and wandered out to the kitchen. I remained standing.
I usually feel like there's a remainder from a show that's swept away on the last night with the set and the piles of dust and dirt that somehow makes it into those sterile studio spaces. Giving notes after the last performance is unnecessary, undoubtedly, and a director who tells you that you fluffed a line when you're opening the first can of the after-show isn't particularly popular. But here are my own debrief notes.
Seeing Discords alongside Diary of a Madman, a piece based on the works of Gogol, suddenly made so much sense for me. The evening became about watching a descent into madness, then about being mad. As a theatre-goer, you evaluate what you see in relation to the oeuvre of theatre that you've seen before. So to be confronted with a sequence of heads reciting Shakespeare's lines, shredded and repeated, which you've almost certainly heard before but never like this, becomes your own madness; as you constantly try and lace together a narrative from the shards of past conceptions, never quite pulling one together. It's a torture and a breakdown, not for the heads themselves but for the contemporary theatre-goer, and the double-bill created that connection.
This brought to my attention the idea of the double bill in general: I suddenly found myself trying to think of what two plays would go together in a challenging way. With Discords and Diary, entirely new interpretations were opened up (not necessarily deliberately). Adding the second knot to the rope defines a new space to examine; to fray; to peel away; to eventually sever. Andrea Dunbar's Rita, Sue and Bob too alongside the verbatim piece A State Affair is an excellent example of a double-bill that challenges and fractures both plays, creating a whole new discourse between them.
Perhaps all plays should be performed as part of a provocative and challenging double-bill. Or perhaps its just a search for the polyvocal, the second perspective, the contradiction in everything. As a head in Discords, each night I stared out into the audience or down at the floor and could see nothing but blackness. You can't always count on things that are there being there. The truth about all of these interpretations is that there isn't a true one; where others are hidden, more light up. The most important thing I've taken from this process is not to assume that there is nothing to be gained from having to put a lot of imagination into interpreting other people's works, regardless of how much they've put in.