Saturday night was probably the busiest of the three nights at the Project. Maybe word had spread and people were bringing along friends or maybe it’s just the night for going to the theatre. I had spent the day in a drama workshop and when I got home that evening after a day of lots of movement and lots of ideas flying around, I considered giving it a miss. Just staying in, maybe watching a movie and then going to bed early. I couldn’t do it. I was afraid I’m miss something spectacular, something special if I didn’t go. I’m glad I did manage to drag myself down to the Project in the end. I think it was my favourite night of the three.
The first piece was called Worksong and was based on interviews with people who had experienced a big change in their work life. It was about work, but the underlying theme was the importance of having meaningful work to do, work that people feel is worthwhile. This idea really resonated with me.
The technique used was a little strange. The edited interviews were played directly to the actors through headphones, and they repeated the words they heard. Reading the programme before the performance, I wondered why it was done like this and what the advantage was. Surely it would make more sense for the actors to learn the lines before hand and have time to work on the characters they were playing. These doubts went out the window when I saw the performance. The actors were forced to react instantly to what they were hearing and this gave the performance a immediacy that felt fresh. The only disadvantage was that the actors weren’t able to pause for laughter or spontaneous applause. They had to keep up with the interview that was playing through their headphones. And there was laughter and applause – it was a great piece.
Dog Skipping Pegasus was very like the live art pieces that I studied and experienced at university. It was almost a visual art piece that consisted of a woman working at a sewing machine, feeding material along, while on the other side of the stage a man skipped, mirroring the mechanical repetition of the sewing machine. The man stood in a spotlight on a white canvas divided into four squares and used a long red skipping rope, the sound and movement of which was vaguely hypnotic. The text he spoke (while skipping! he never stopped skipping) was flow of conscience stuff that sounded poetic, lots of images. I found it hard to concentrate on the words because I was entranced by the sound of the skipping rope. It looked good and the physical accomplishment was admirable (non-stop skipping for 20 minutes!) but I didn’t really find it very theatrical.
The third piece was called Messages from God and was a piece from an artist that had performed at Project Brand New before and was invited back (Project Brand New RSVP). It consisted of the artist, Priscilla Robinson talking about illustrated notes that she’d made as a child while listening to her father’s sermons in church. The pages were projected onto the wall behind her and she told us the biblical story each page related to. I liked the piece. Priscilla was very personable and it was a funny and light-hearted. She’s the only artist I feel the need to name in these reviews because it was such a personal piece and who she was was a big part of it.
One of the pieces of feedback that she asked for at the end was how could she make these drawings and stories into a piece of theatre. For me, that’s the big question and one that I have asked myself often when devising theatre. We would have all these ideas and images and characters that we wanted to put onstage but we had no idea how to put them all together in a way that worked in a theatrical sense. I hope Priscilla finds a way because I would like to see more of her work.
The final piece on Saturday night was Market Research This which might be my favourite of all from the entire Project Brand New 4 run. It was another work in progress, with the final piece being staged in early next year. There was a sense that there was more of the story to be told but at the same time if seemed very polished and tight, and it worked. The three actors were very good and really gave life to their characters. The writing was also excellent and probably the main reason that I am dying to see the finished piece. It was smart and contemporary and funny and I really enjoyed it.
Market Research Thing was the second piece of the night to be about work, and it was a perfect contrast to the first piece Worksong. Here the characters, working in their Market Research job, their job in Market Research, did not find their work meaningful or worthwhile. Again, this struck a cord with me because I have experience of those jobs that just slowly suck the life out of you. However it was not a depressing piece of theatre. It was lively and clever and had such a light, sure touch but still the themes and the struggles of the characters stuck with me. As I said, I am really looking forward to seeing the finished piece and will be looking out for Redtape, the company who are producing it.
I left on Saturday night feeling inspired and invigorated by all the pieces I’d seen, my mind buzzing with ideas. I’m already looking forward to the next Project Brand New and who knows, I might even have my own performance to put forward for consideration by then!