A good week overall for Nonesuch Theatre. Mixed success blundering into the blogosphere, but things are afoot.
Went to some performances at Little Angel’s wonderful Suspense festival of puppetry for adults last week and was inspired by the beautiful and mesmerizing work I saw (notably Wild Theatre’s immaculately abstract Stonebelly and Indefinite Articles’ quite brilliiant-if-not-yet fully-cooked Penumbra). Made me reflect on a few things about theatre which I’ll now share with you,as bloggers do. (Who “you” are is a delightful unknown. My only respondent so far has been my lovely aunt Mary who lives in Cape Town and I haven’t seen for a dozen years or more. So there’s an unexpected blogging-benefit).
Audiences like to drift and dream – I tend to worry an awful lot about pace and plot and ensuring at all costs that the audience doesn’t get bored, but I found myself most happily spellbound during large sections of the above-mentioned pieces despite having no particular idea what was going on.
But for me it works best when, before being drawn into these extended reveries, you are handed an emotional brief. So the ground is seeded with a notion of a dispute, a desire, a regret (or whatever it is) and then, as the images and sounds on the stage grow and change, you can invest them with this emotional content. Everyone’s interpretation will be unique, of course, but the key thing is that they are emotionally opened up so that they experience all this exquisite stagecraft as meaningful in the context of some kind of story/relationship/feeling rather than just admiring its form.
So, more fundamentally, I think that the first duty of theatre is to tell a story and the second is to to tell that story freshly. And it’s the challenge of this second aspect that seduces most of us – you want to show your originality and make your mark; and this is the bit that eveyone’s going to talk about (if they’re going to talk about anything). But it’s only when the first is addressed (however lightly and indirectly – I’m not talking Hollywood screenplays here) that the second has meaning.
Many may disagree. I know that people (myuself included) enjoy abstract ballet, visual theatre etc that apparently has no reducible story or meaning BUT I think these things work best when they allow you to bring a possible story or meaning to them – then they suddenly, magically flower into something that is much more than a set of brilliant images.
Anyway, enough of this earnest spiel. Here’s the news on Nonesuch, good and bad:
We’ve had many generous contributions to our WeFund funding campaign. (People pledge a bit of money and if we hit the target by a certain date we get the money pledged, details on the blog). Many of these donations haven’t yet registered in our Target Percentage Figure as they are from supporters more advanced in age who are having some difficulty clicking in all the right places on the website. So although it seems stuck at about 9% I think it’s nearer 20. In particular I feel I must mention one dear friend who has not only pledged £150 but also offered to donate free psychonanalysis sessions to other high pledgers! Top that! And the fine Shakespearean actor David Fielder (Prospero in the recent RSC/Little Angel Tempest), a fellow of legendary generosity who has also made a large pledge, despite being no wealthier than an actor can be expected to be. (He shares with me a strong attachment to charity-shopping).
In addition we have now been offered the support of the Battersea Arts Centre who have asked us to take up a week-long residency early next year to help develop the piece and show some work-in-progress to the public. So with Little Angel and BAC behind us we feel in safe hands indeed.
I rang up the HSBC on Friday to start a business bank account for Nonesuch. At almost exactly the same time their entire computer system collapsed.
After an enthusastic launch of the company on Facebook, my own son “unfriended” me!
So, onwards and sideways…