Monday, October 20, 2014

It's great when you Play.

After saying goodbye to our show Sunday Morning...  It popped back up again.  In my inbox.  As an email invitation to the Edinburgh Festival.  As part of the official selections for the South African Season.  A collaboration between the Assembly Festival (not to be confused with the Assembly Rooms) and the SA Dept of Arts and Culture.

James and The South African Season.

We said yes, and then... why hello again Sunday Morning.  We were very excited, and somewhat intrigued, to bring this show to an international audience.  It is not a show overtly about the hardcore realities of living in South Africa... racism, crime, cultural conflict.  In fact it is a feel good show about a guy struggling with one could say 'middle class' problems.  Of course the writing is brilliant and James' performance is wonderful... but we don't follow the story of the woman who under horrific circumstances does something hectic (we assume).  No.  Instead we follow the story of the man who happens upon the scene after the woman, who has done something hectic, has left... without any trite explanation, without any contrived insight, without any moral judgement, nothing.  This incident is the turning point of the play and his story moves on.  As it is his story.  Not hers.  And his story is as real as hers.  Because life throws a curve ball at an ordinary guy out for a run.

James and I on the day we arrived.

We had a quiet start to the month long run in our teeny tiny venue (a double width shipping container) and as is often true with art... it grew and grew and grew.  James, being alone after a week with me helping get the show in, at a festival that boasts something like 3000 shows, it is terribly easy to feel overwhelmed and very very small.  The turning point arrived after about the 5th show with two people in the audience one of whom had fallen asleep that James decided that this really wasn't working.  He wasn't having fun.  The audience wasn't having fun.  Not when 50% of them are asleep!  So really, if no-one is having fun, what is the point.  Go home rather.  Do a corporate.  Its much easier and pays more.  And he decided to find the fun again.  The sense of play.  And he did.  There was no option to come home.  So to die or not to die... every day at 12:40 for a month.  He chose not to die.  And the show turned around.  To the point where James was sad when the month was over.

The Box... our fabulous shipping container venue.


1.  High ENERGY level
To be totally present you have to have a high energy level.  This means you can't have 'floppy arms' when you talk... in other words when you make a gesture you drop your arms back to your sides let them hit your body and then sway there by their own momentum.  You need to be fully aware so that one gesture moves into the next and there is no parasitic movement.  Parasitic movement = movement of your arms, swaying, feet etc etc that you are totally unaware of.
2.  Keep it FRESH
It may very well be the 100th time you have performed this piece... so you cannot say that it is the first time you are telling it.  No.  That would be a lie.  And you can't believe a lie.  But, it is the only time... on this day, in front of this audience...  If you think of it like that then it is impossible to do it exactly how you did it yesterday.  Shake it up a little.  Read the audience here and now... audiences are different.  And if you have the right level of energy your listening can (and will) tune into them... And you are able to make subtle shifts in how you deliver a line... when you clock... how long you hold a pause... how long you play a moment etc etc...
3.  Have FUN
If you are not having fun.  Then the audience is not having fun.  And then there really is no point.  Having fun is a decision.  Decide to have fun and then you will really have fun.  Its a bit like that laughing exercise - force yourself to laugh until eventually you are really laughing.  The easiest way, I think, to really really have fun is to make it not about you... but about the story.  It is important for the audience to receive this story... and not to see how brilliant the actor is or the director is or the line is written etc etc...  You have to try to remove self consciousness and serve the story.

The rules are simple... and difficult.  And sometimes easy to forget.  But they are always there to come back to if you have lost your way a little.

So, Sunday Morning found a new breath.  A renewed energy.  A brand new audience.  I feel very happy for the show and really very proud of you, James.  Thank you... It's great when you play.  Rock on.

And now a few pics from the beautiful city of Edinburgh... 

This really appealed to James' sense of humour.

A dramatic view of the old and the new from The Meadows.

Arthurs Seat... the day I gave myself such massive blisters and didn't even make all the way to his seat!

James being a tourist.

A thistle.  So pretty.

James and Vika having breakfast... two of my favourite people.

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