FINDING THE GAME, PLAYING THE GAME AND PLAYING THE GAME AGAIN

My practice before working each day has transitioned from writing and yoga on the beach to surfing in the sea. I’ve graduated quickly from standing up to being able to turn and gather more momentum. I hope I’ve time to practice trying to catch them myself, without the holding hands of the instructor guiding my board and heart beat before take off. After each journey from sea to sand, I return to sea diligently to try again. On one occasion, the waves wouldn’t let me back. They had had the time to form wide, huge, heavy and in succession. Each one pounded down and pulled my limbs back, ankle entangled in plastic rope….

…Where are you seal pup? When will you surface again to watch with curious brown eyes, the failing and falling of foreigners in the sea?

We played a game with rules tonight and it was fun. It was so satisfying. We took a very long time to work out how to play it and then a longer time working out what all the cards meant in relation to each other. But eventually, we were playing. And, as such, enjoying the company of each other and all the individualities that came out.

Assembling art

An extra team member arrived recently from Kosovo which has been really good. A fresh perspective at this stage feels very welcome. Florent has often reminded the group that without the audience a lot of the ideas for the show can’t be tested properly. Being reminded of this seems to have given a bit of space to the process in general.

On the run up to the performances I worked mainly with the other performers, both on their solos and in our duos. After workshopping Tehanis’ solo piece with her, we talked about how important it is to find the game in what you do and how this can both influence the performance but also the devising process. With this in mind, we reworked the intro so it was more playful and interesting. We often talked about how each part of the journey was almost like a miniature show in itself and how each of them could be elaborated on into full performance pieces. In this way, it often fell to us to make sense of all these elements which we were putting the audience through. This was both fun and overwhelming at times.

Performance pals – Jagath (pronounced with a shout), Tehani (be careful of extreme mischief), me (can I make a cigarette?), Arun (sweet diva)

I really like what Tehani, Jagath and Arun have brought to the piece as a whole and I’m glad there is more of a clear performance element to the work alongside the more visual elements. During the performances, it was great to see how the audience connected with each element of the journey.

Neil Butler, always prepared to help make art happen

A welcome moment came when Neil proposed some very simple but binding text to repeat at the middle and end of the piece. “These are our homes, these are our people, this is our community, this is our life!” I thought it worked really well and helped guide the intention for the piece.

It’s been an exciting and challenging project in many ways. It’s often felt like being caught up in waves, each one unique, one after the other. It’s been like a dancing mess with things happening all at once, upside down and back to front. It’s been a lesson in time management and how to continue working outwith set hours of the day to debrief and continue to work on ideas. I have really enjoyed working with everyone and I’ve relished being here again. Thank you everyone for your good energy, love and patience.

Some final thoughts…
How does place influence performance? How does place influence creativity?
How has Sri Lanka influenced The Snowball Effect? (how has it not?…)
…Where can I go surfing in Scotland?

The Snowball Effect review and photos

For surfing in Sri Lanka, I recommend Hippie Surf School

NEARLY AT THE END AND ONLY JUST BEGINNING

One night, during an abundance of lemon gin, suddenly, everyone became our own countries stereotypes. Is seeing someone like discovering you have an adjustable lens? and it’s how you focus that lens, and on what, and why, that is interesting? As I watched the French being more French, the Italian being more Italian, the English being more English etc etc, I swung my gaze upon myself. I must seem the most Scottish I’ve ever seemed. But what is that? I thought. I’ve never felt Scottish, or Brittish, or one thing. It’s nuanced, I thought. Very nuanced. It all is…It’s also maybe about that lens, and why it’s even there…

Tehani and frame.
Original testing of ideas for walkabout piece – http://www.dailynews.lk/2018/12/03/tc/170035/exploring-identity-culture-continent?page=8

We finally have the full cast to work with. As a quartet, I’m hopeful that, through proper play times, we can help crystalise some gems of the piece.

As someone who works solo mainly out of necessity rather than preference, I often crave working in groups and creating, playing and learning as part of an ensemble or creative team. I have found working with the other performers an artists on the piece really fun.

Taking some ideas for a walk with Ana.
Make-shift duo exploring ideas for guide characters originally explored with Tehani and Arun, originally conceived as “SENSE & US”
Zephyr and Florent bringing a mobile to life
Ana and Fabrice painting myth objects. Ana focused a lot on the idea of storytelling as informing identity and explored creation myths which now feature in the performance.

Today, we tried to put into action a certain part of the journey we shall be leading the audience through, which has manifested as a sort of “initiation” into a “new community”. I’m paired with Jagath, a local performer/actor, fairly well known for his tv/film work in Sri Lanka. As we improvised, curious heads popped over the wall to watch, charmed, from the neighboring garden. Afterwards, we went inside for lunch as Jagath stayed and talked to the family who had spied our haphazard stumble through.

Bobbing in the sea, later that day, Jagath spoke of how talented Arun is as a director and writer. That evening, Arun spoke of Venuri as a sharp and to the point performer whom he was inspired by. He also talked admiringly of Tehani and how this would be their tenth show together.

Singing Sura Medura – collaboration with Dave House

Before I came back to Sri Lanka, I already had an idea to record a new piece of work inspired by natural vocal reverb heard in the many temples. I took this idea and proposed it to Dave as a potential collaboration for the opening number for the show. The idea was to take a vocal document of the reverb of the space by recording voice in the different rooms at Sura Medura and make a piece of work from it that could be used in the performance. We stuck to a simple approach and created something quite minimalist which we both were really happy with and felt worked really well in the show. You can have a listen to some of Dave’s work from the residency by following this link – http://www.thereverseengineer.co.uk/category/sri-lanka/

The talent is there and is truly a treasure to work with. After some much needed conversations about the overall vision for the piece, and some pulling up of invisible socks, it seems everyone has delved in a little more whole heartedly and we are slowly but surely making sense of things.

I’m excited to see how the characters develop and how discussions about the overall performance evolve. I’m looking forward to more conversations over Lion beer and lemon gin.

Speaking up, mess and what goes on behind doors unlocked.

I’ve been here before.
Being here again is to miss properly the people I missed out missing fully the first time.
I dreamt a monsoon of tears
that changed the course of their muddy futures for one of celestial celebration.
I woke early and walked to the beach.
I couldn’t see the usual horizon parting sky and sea for mist – a blurring of two worlds was still underway.
And yes,
something happened last night,
but it’s a secret…

Open doors welcome sun setting glows – before the glass was installed at Sura Medura

New glass was installed recently at Sura Medura, finally sealing the space and giving ultimate entry and exit power to the many, already fitted doors. As the building itself takes shape, so does the performance project, our beloved snowball.

My main objective these past few weeks has been to help make some final decisions about the overall show structure. Matteo, Ana and I have been working rigorously trying to get our joint heads around all the aspects of the piece. Jumping between the conceptual, the practical, the imagined and the ideal has been a bit disorientating at times. It’s proving a tricky process in many ways and one that seems to be giving new learning experiences to all. I’m really enjoying working with a mixture of visual and performative languages and trying to build an open story that an audience can traverse and find meaning in. Out with these sessions I’m in conversation with the other artists, designing the poster, and doing any other extra jobs that need doing. It’s usually later on in the evening, or if we have time to get in the sea before sunset, that I decompress a little and reflect on the process.

Some extra thoughts I’ve had have been mainly to do with collaboration and what it is. How do you define roles in a collaboration project? Is it useful/important to do this? If so, why/why not? What is collaboration? Is it born mainly from the agreements between the artists in how they wish to work and a shared understanding of what everyone does? In all cases, communication is key it seems.

The Snowball Effect poster design featuring Fabrice’s beautiful hand carved wooden houses – resized for Instagram.
The Snowball Effect logo created after an effective exercise in poster design with Tehani and Ana. Setting the task of encapsulating the show in an image or collage helped solidify the main theme of the piece and informed the design of the logo.

Invited initially as director, and then as a performer, I came with an open mind as general collaborator. I was aware that the piece was still, in a way, an experiment, and that, how we all worked together, was going to be up to us. I came prepared to be part of the process in any way that best served the project and overall vision for the work. My role for the first couple of weeks took the form of co-director/writer/dramaturg to help play out the many proposed possibilities that the journey for the audience could take. This process would then inform decisions about the overall structure. By zooming in and out like this, some things became clearer and this felt quite good. A pattern soon emerged that after these epiphany moments, there seemed to be a certain amount of time until we would be back untangling or reinventing the same part of the puzzle. My main issue with this process was that it seemed to take a very long time and involved a lot of sitting down and discussing. It was really interesting however, finding out how each us think about performance and trying to get to a place that we thought worked best for the piece. I realised I’ve got a skill for holding whole scenes, including the emotional effects of these scenes; whole show pathways, characters, scenography ideas, music ideas, in my head like a floating puzzle, ready to be arranged and re-arranged at will. All the while, my senses are hard wired to latch onto any new arrangement that feels most full, complimentary, exciting or potent. It was a useful skill in this setting at times, but not always.

I’m particularly proud of my show map creation, which I proposed as a way to work through ideas. With the others hesitant at first, they finally ended up liking the approach and used it often, later, to help describe to the rest of the team, the structure of the piece. It looked like a board game, and, as such, served as a bit of visual relief from the sometimes overwhelming mental image of the piece.

I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of building and interrogating at the same time. After facilitating and playing what has felt like a massive game of creative problem solving I’ve suddenly found myself at a point where I need to have the space and time to think about the performance element and what this can add, change, flavour. I also don’t want to get stuck in a sort of “director’s assistant” role. I’ve worked with the other performers individually at various points and we are making progress in this area.

Distorting perceptions…experiments in shadow play with Tehani.

Since we are lacking the full cast and an audience to practice with, it seems clearer and clearer that each creative window and door must remain open, or partially so, for now…

Day 10 – ‘Each Moment is a Picture’

Last day at The Actors Space working on Bird and we adventurously added in some new sequences and played with the ending a bit. We then headed down to the space and started to set up.

A couple of hours later, after around 70 people took their seats and Marian gave a short introduction, Bird was shared. The piece has no dialogue but the character does vocalise at points. I found it interesting that, for some reason, I was vocalising with a hint of Spanish! The performance went down very well and the audience seemed really engaged throughout. There were some hiccups with technical difficulties to do with the live sound element but overall things ran very smoothly.

The next couple of days will be spent resting, reflecting, getting feedback from Simon then going home, where I’ll continue to develop the work. The next couple of posts will be related to the future development of the piece and some reflection on the full 2 week residency as well as the performance.

For those of you who have been following the blog and would like to comment or ask any questions, please feel free to do so. Your input will be appreciated.

 

 

 

 

Day 9 – ‘Joy and Happiness’

We staggered through the whole piece today then presented it in full to Marian in the evening. The tension that settled in my body from trying to remember all the actions and technicalities was something that I’ve experienced before with rehearsing this piece. Nevertheless, it felt good to have done a full run through and to get some objective feedback.

We took a trip down to the venue and put up the drapes for the staging. Once again, David and I were overwhelmed by how enthusiastic Jan, the owner, was about having the piece performed at his space. He was so helpful and energetic in making the space just right for us. It was obviously in his nature to be so helpful and positive but it made me wish that I knew more people like him back in Scotland. People who are willing to help in what way they can to make a project unique and worth while. He is even going to lay gravel down on the track to the Circus Space to make it easier for people to get there! He’s unique 🙂

Tomorrow, we run through the piece incorporating the look and clown state. The look to the audience isn’t something that can necessarily be rehearsed without an audience but I’m hoping that the lightness of the state will release some of the tension that comes from trying to remember everything! There’s some extra bits to work in as well. Bits that give hope, are joyful for the character, and that make her world a happy police, even just for a little while.

Day 7 – ‘The Shape of Things’

Today was a highly active and tiring day. It began with an exercise in animal observation. Undoubtedly, the most attractive animal personality at The Actors Space is Mona the dog. I thoroughly enjoyed my twenty minutes of observing and playing with Mona. I then presented my own representation of her to Simon back at the space. This venture into animal instincts helped to feed into the development of the relationship between the girl and the bird from a very practical and realistic perspective.

We then tried sampling my bird sounds for David to activate during the piece. David and I had previously refrained from using sampled sounds in general because we always favored the live, honest quality of unaffected and immediate live sound effects. But David, can’t do the particular bird sound I can create. He imitates a curlew very well but they are a bit big for this piece.

Things have developed nicely today and we did land an ending. The piece has a shape.

Day 6 – ‘ The End is Not Nigh!’

Monday has been a bit of a fuzzy day. We got to what should have been the ‘end bit’ and then all time and space started to bend. The mixture of re-capping material from last week, creating new material for new sections and discussing the themes of the piece started to affect everyone I think. I also felt for the first time that perhaps I was being a bit clingy with my original material and had to remind myself to be open to new progressions and change.

A new treatment came out of some unexpected activity however. David was trying to get rid of feedback in the monitors, which was a very noisy and piercing process. I was in the space marking through the sequence and something about my robotic, demented pacing and David’s metallic feedback noises seemed to work. It was a nice surprise!

After leaving the space we embarked immediately on dinner and created the most scrumptious meal prepared to date. Chorizo, tomato and garlic risotto topped with poached trout! Complemented with rich tasting Rioja. Yum.

Day 5 – ‘Mimey World – Push and Pull’

Today began with some exercises in manipulation and articulation with Marian. We then looked at creating rhythms with David’s Foley ‘walking’ sound effects. It opened up the possibility for a whole show that could be scored in terms of rhythm and pace.

I’m finding it so beneficial to have recapped the basics of physical performance with Simon and Marian. I’ve re-visited neutral mask, element work, Feldenkrais, mime/ manipulation, all of which have fed into the development process of Bird very effectively I feel.

Both David and I have been really happy with the approach Simon has taken as director with the project so far. It’s good for me to be able to pass on all my thoughts and possibilities for a piece to someone else, allowing me to play and have fun with the character and scenarios. I’m already realising the benefits of the residency so far which is really positive.

A nice break this weekend then back to it all on Monday morning!

Day 4 – ‘An enigmatic, magical relationship’

We finished today with a writing session, which concluded for me long after we left the space. It’s only been an extra 40 minutes but dedicating so much detailed thought to a piece based around circumstances, actions and re-actions feels like it takes a lot of time indeed. It’s like trying to write a story without using words or sentences…Certainly, there are some very striking themes becoming clear in the piece and I feel it’s seeping into the ideas for the character very well. It’s a dark, stubborn world in which she lives but I get the sense she could leave, if she so wished…I’ll link to David’s photo blog now, enjoy!