January 25, 2011

The double–bill and the de–brief

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.


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