Friday, 2 December 2011

Holding a door open

So finally a few thoughts.


I went to a talk last night and amongst (many) other things the speaker proposed the idea that the Occupy movement might be holding a space open in which society can reconfigure itself. And something really resonated about that. I like this image, of holding something, not declaring something, not prescribing something, but holding a door open to see who might choose to pass through. Allowing the possibility for change rather than simply imposing change. Allowing the possibility, also, for new conversations to emerge, without prescribing necessarily what those conversations will be. I like the image, but I also like the problems it presents. What happens when you allow a reflective space? How does that shape the type of change that can occur and the speed of change that can occur? Might it in fact be a space that creates 'shifts' rather than 'changes'? How can the rest of the world read this new space, that does not fit into existing definitions, that comes without a map? How long can this opening last before something has to land and settle, before an opinion needs to be set?

How we make theatre
And I've been thinking a lot about how different people make theatre. I guess mainly because I've been feeling a lot of pressure to be articulate about Glorious and feeling unable to adequately do this. For me, this relates back to the idea of holding the door open. Because I think that some artists do a bunch of research, and through that research find a process that leads to a performance - and the moment when they start performing is when the door closes, because the work has been created and is ready to tour. In many ways, this is a beautiful model. It is neat, and allows for the audience to experience a finished product. It also allows the artist to talk about the work and explain what it's trying to do - and then an audience can hear this articulation alongside the work. Somedays I wish I worked this way.

But the way I (and many others) work is a lot more messy than this. Messy and unclear. Or open and filled with possibility. Depending on how you choose to frame it.

My approach is something like this. I find an area that is interesting - for example, the idea of 'not knowing' and how it relates to our notions of place and hope - and then along with collaborators we read and draw and make, and slowly find our way towards something, which usually ends up being some kind of show. But the process of touring the work is much more like a conversation than an exhibition. Through journeying with those beginning thoughts and ideas, we start to learn what it is that we have made. We shift constantly in how we feel about the work and where we stand in relation to it. And we make physical changes based on that shifting, drawing closer to the work but also gaining more perspective from the reactions of diverse audiences and from the going away and coming back that is inevitable in a year of touring.
The whole thing is like a big conversation between peoples and costumes and objects and memories and places. And then at the end of the tour - some months or even a year later - I will begin the process of reflection. And I start to know what that thing was. I can articulate its ideas and theorise about it. I can see how it lived in relation to the moment when it existed.

So now I'm thinking about a tour as a holding open of an idea for a time - a holding open of a particular space, through which various audience and participants will pass in so many ways. And it will eventually close, and make way for a space of reflection. But maybe it's okay that while it's travelling and shifting and in dialogue, it is a space that holds many voices.