Project Brand New 4 – Day 3

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!

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Project Brand New 4 – Day 2

I thought Friday night would be a quiter than Thursday because it was a Friday, and also because U2 were playing in Croke Park and half the people in the city seemed to be going to see them. I was wrong and the theatre quickly filled up just before half seven. I kept seeing people I recognised in the audience then realising that it wasn’t that I knew them, I’d just seen them on stage recently.

The first piece of the night was called Players at the Hooley!. It was a piece from an Active Retirement group and it was about the lives of older people and what people think about getting older and specifically their own ageing. It was a really simple piece with no agenda behind it and I like that. It consisted of talking heads of different ages answering questions about how they would look, feel, spend their time, etc when they were old, not any specific age, just old. And then the members of the active retirement group – the older people themselves – told stories from their own lives. I liked that the performers didn’t pretend to be something they weren’t, they just told their stories directly to the the audience. There were two couples, both married 40+ years, teasing each other and enjoying sharing this experience with the other. I love when you see that on stage – performers obviously enjoying themselves.

They also had the brilliant idea of passing sweets around the audiene so you were surround by the sound of crinkling paper as everyone opened their sweets. The sweets were hard-toffees – the type older people generally avoid because they’re not great for the old teeth – I don’t know if this was on purpose and was supposed to mean something or if they were just noisy sweets!

The second piece, The Flamboyant Bird was a solo piece that was described in the programme as “a 15 minute extract, which occurs 1/3 the way into a full-length solo piece called The Flamboyant Bird.” The actor performing it was very talented and did a good job but being allowed to see a small part of the story meant it sort of left me cold. I don’t know if I would have felt differently if I didn’t know it was a chunk from the middle of a longer piece and had been left to judge it on it’s own merits. It might have worked better that way. I didn’t hate it but it didn’t really make me feel a whole lot for the characters or their plight.

The third piece of the night was called Captive. It was a piece that had been performed at Project Brand New before, and the performers had been asked back to perform again. I didn’t see it the first time but listening to others talk about it, it hasn’t changed much since then. The programme notes describe it as ‘A performance with talking and some music bits.’ I liked the music bit welll enough but could have done with out the talking, which was most of the time just a guy behind a microphone. Towards the middle the music made me feel really depressed and paranoid. I don’t know if that was the intended effect or not. The name of the piece was apt, I felt trapped listening to this awfulness and just wanted to end.

The final piece was a bit strange. It was called SilentCity and was presented by Dey Sed who describe themselves as a multimedia collective. It was a strange sort of dreamscape of a performance, with a strange narrartive structure loosely wound around it. I liked it. It was dream-like because because it didn’t make a lot of sense, it didn’t have a beginning, middle and an end and if it did, they were all jumbled up, but there were nice images on stage and weird and interesting ideas in the piece. It reminded me of a piece I saw in the Fringe last year called I’m So Close It’s Not Even Funny which had the same sort of dream-like quality to it.

Overall, I didn’t enjoy the Friday night as much I’d enjoyed Thursdays. But the whole set up of Project Brand New means that you are not going to like everything and I think it’s important to see work I actively dislike sometimes. It makes me think about the sort of work I don’t want to make, which can lead me to the type of work I do want to create.

Project Brand New 4 – Day 1

Going along to Project Brand New reminds me a lot of performance days at Brunel. These happened at the end of term when our modules finished and every group had to show their work. They both involve seeing lots of short pieces in a short space of time, all the pieces are brand new and often being seen by an audience for the first time. I would be fairly certain that I would not like all of it, but it would different and exciting. I love going to PBN because my brain feels so full of ideas by the end of the night. New ideas and new ways of doing and looking at things.

This is the first time that I actually have tickets to all three nights and I’m looking forward to being inspired and mentally stimulated for three nights in a row!

Last night the theatre was already packed when I got there and full of excited people looking forward to the night ahead. Finally the lights went down and the show began!

The first piece was called Blooming Great and it was about the life cycle of a flower. It was wonderful! The only dialogue came from a voice-over that sounded almost like a biology text book. Everything came from the actors’ phyiscallity and facial expressions. This meant it was very visual and really beautiful! The interaction between the Flower and the Bee was very sweet and funny. The Flower had such wonderful facial expressions and even though the piece was only about 15 minutes long, it was really quite emotional. I loved it!

The second piece was Storybook and for me it was the piece that felt most finished and polished. That’s not a critisim. I only mention it because Project Brand New is often billed as being works-in-progress or artist’s experimentation, but this didn’t feel like that. It still felt fresh and new and different, but at a very high standard. It involved a light projector (those projectors that lecturer use with acetate slides) which I loved because I also think they are great and have always wanted to use one in a performance! And concluded with short pieces of text from novels, which we actually tried as an ending for our dissertation piece. It worked a lot better in this piece which was simple and engaging.

The third piece was a dance piece called A Still Return. I thought this was interesting and a lot of the movement was very beatiful but it didn’t do a great deal for me. I don’t think I know enough about dance to critque it. It is described in the programme as a ‘meditative solo’ and I agree with that. It made me feel peaceful, while also wishing that my body could move like that!

The final piece was called Jesus has my Mom in there and has beat her up real bad. This was one that really felt like a work-in-progress, probably because it was a first look at a show that Loose Canon Theatre Company are preparing for the autumn. It was interesting and a bit chaotic but had some nice moments. It felt like a rough draft but one that made me interested to see the finished product.

Blooming Great was my favourite piece of the night and it could have gone on for twice as long and I think I still would have loved it.

I’m heading back for another batch of brand new theatre tonight and looking forward to it!