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Monday, 24 April 2017

An afternoon with an Outside Eye - work in progress

So, it's April 4th 2017 and it's eight weeks until my show debuts at the Brighton Fringe.
We've rewritten the script ten times and the slide show has been photographed and ordered with sound added onto a software programme called Keynote. On this sunny morning in Loughborough Junction, me and my Co-Producer are full of anticipation. We are stood under the arches trying to access the keys in a safe-box outside a hired rehearsal space. It's time for our outside eye, the world renowned performer Ursula Martinez, to cast her experienced and critical eye over the show.
We unlock the rehearsal space to a musty room with a mezzanine and a piano. Then we make coffee and set up. We run through the show and although I know there are parts that aren't totally working, I'm hoping Ursula will know how to approach unravelling these bits and still love it somewhat.

Ursula arrives, we have a quick chat then begin.
Basically, the following happens:
The projector flashes strange colours throughout the show.
I can't hear any laughter during the 'funny' parts.
As I perform I feel exposed, uncomfortable, rocked sometimes by sudden insecurities.
When parts of the script clearly aren't working I feel like I'm verging on having an out of body experience.
But, I do get to the end of the script and, when we turn off the projector I sit in the audience area and Ursula does not seem overly worried.

Ursula begins feedback by asking how I felt during the performance? I say, for some of the show I felt 'in it' and some of the show I felt 'out of it'.
The 'in' bits, Ursula says, will match the 'in' bits that she probably felt, and those are to be trusted as they are true. The 'out' bits are the wrong notes, the things/ideas that are not working.
I knew that she knew that I knew there were more 'outs' than 'ins'.
She tells us what she likes about the show and then she helps us to start pulling apart the show's ideas and, what she suggests as, the many differing voices and languages in it. Why is Barbara in some of the slides and not others? Why are we using found images, or taking pictures of shoes and mushrooms? Who do the slides belong to and who is taking the slides?
We settle on the idea that there are too many slides (I realise that we had got swept away with the slide show.)

The Brighton Poster
Then Ursula says the show does not deliver on its title:
'Who Do You Think You Are? Barbara Brownskirt.'
She asks, how much of my story do I, as Karen McLeod, personally share with Barbara Brownskirt? Then we talk about how maybe I have been confusing my writer's voice with Barbara's voice in the script. My authorial voice is dominating when Barbara's way of seeing the word is much more simple.
We talk about Barbara's voice, and I comment that I don't know why I need an alter ego but I do. But this isn't the time for self-examination, but, maybe it is. (I calm myself by telling myself this is not the time for an existential crisis.)

Ursula says, MORE POETRY! Isn't it a poetry theatre slide show after all? 

We decide I have to break down the show's ideas into Barbara's voice. Create more build up to ideas when talking about such things as Croydon or Chromosomes. Nature V nurture. We assume the audience know Barbara, but they don't. Questions arise like: How does Barbara make her money? How does she pay her rent? 

Then we do a quick voice workshop to try to differentiate between Barbara's poetry voice and Barbara's speaking voice. They should sound different. The show should have different tonal
qualities. If you set up a rule you can break it, only to come back to it. Spoon feed the audience, draw it all back, make it simpler, make it more Barbara.
Barbara's show is about her making a project about Penge and transport and relationships and Judi Dench. This is her territory; this is the answer to the question WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? Is it a question of Barbara asking WHO AM I? and the show answers that. What does the blurb on the back of the flyer say? Deliver on that.
Last thing to remember is that although Barbara is a fictitious character, her world needs to feel totally real.

Later, after Ursula leaves, I feel over-whelmed with how much more work we have to do. My Co-Producer tells me that she wished I could have heard Ursula laughing at certain points, but what with my anorak hood up and how far away Ursula was sat, I couldn't hear. I discuss with my Co-Producer about how I tell the creative writing students in my workshops that all writing is rewriting. How they should listen for the flat notes and listen for the notes that hit the mark. In the beginning there will be more wrong notes than right. The audience need hooks, so they can hang on to the story that you are telling.

I realise I am a student and always will be, even though I'm performing at a professional level.
I have to remember to walk my talk. I have to remember that it will all come together and that all writing and performing IS A PROCESS in order so you can get to the stuff that seems as if it's as easy as breathing.

Tickets for 'Who Do You Think You Are? Barbara Brownskirt.' ON SALE NOW!
Brighton Fringe, 1 & 2 June:
London debut, 21 July, Royal Vauxhall Tavern:

1 comment:

  1. We have booked! I look forward to seeing the "finished product"... Jx