Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Stand Alone

After working for such a long time on solo shows... namely Dirt and Sunday Morning... We have just launched into a two-hander. And it is so exciting. But before I move on to that I wanted to pay homage to the stage craft of solo performance... it seamed right as James Cuningham just won the Fleur du Cap for best actor in a solo show for Sunday Morning... It's rough being out there alone. And i've only done it in a short scene never mind an hour long play... with such a massive crescendo. 

What is it like to be on stage alone. James described it once as going from doubles tennis to singles. That your co-performer really is the audience.  That is it can be lonely and often exhilarating. 

Recently I received photo's from our final performance at Helikos... a few of which were solo performances... So... a bit about those...

Barbara in her solo performance of the Bavarian story Brandner Kasper
photo by Stefano Borghi

The moment arrived when we all had to stand alone on stage... The audience, the lights, the silence, the anticipation, the nerves... the waiting. Ahh. You step out and it's just you.  You alone... to make it happen or let it fall... and only have yourself to blame. The best form of defense is attack. They say. So go for it! Tell me a story. And we did. And in some ways I feel I learnt the most about theatre from this period of solo storytelling. So many essential theatre rules are amplified.  

Vika in her solo performance of the Snow Queen
photo by Stefano Borghi

Action reaction... it is not possible for both your characters to speak at the same time... never-mind a group of gawking on-lookers inspecting Saartjie Baartman... or a league of angels swooping down to fight the Snow Queen's Snow Bees...  

Rhythm... if there are no suspensions there is no time to breathe... pause... give the audience (and yourself) a chance to take it in.  

Voice rhythm and resonance... no two characters should sound the same or it can be confusing... 'who is she now?' Someone in the front row whispers. Shu. Liz our voice teacher helped me so much with this one in my solo piece as some of the characters were starting to bleed into one another... Resonance is one one aspect of voice but so is rhythmical speech patterns. She has the most amazing ear for this. Respect.

Body shape... no two characters should have the same vibration, consistency, shape... 'which one is this again?'

Space...  Somehow one person creating space, drawing images in the mind of the audience, is so quintessentially theatrical. Because firstly it is quite difficult so one has to be rather inventive and suggestive, and so the imagined space can become huge... We feel like we can really see the mountains and valley's of Bavaria... the long and lonely corridors of the Ice Palace... the star spangled African night sky shining down.

Articulation. Play. Crescendo. The necessity of the audience.

Of course. But these rules are so amplified when it is just you.  Alone.

Me in my solo performance of Saartjie Baartman
photo by Stefano Borghi

I have a new found respect for what James Cairns and James Cuningham do in Dirt and Sunday Morning respectively. It's not easy to stand alone.

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