Su onstage at Lyric Hammersmith last weekend
Waiting in the wings, waiting to go on, is a strange feeling, especially for a solo show.
We’ve been performing in these places called theatres for thirty years, and although there is a familiarity about the setting up, and the protocols of the stage which once seemed so mysterious, it still remains a peculiar thing to do. Surrounded by mundane dusty backstage clutter, one attempts to put one’s mind in the zone of performance, to be on mental starting blocks to enter the space fully charged in the character of whoever we need to be. But there is the waiting for the cue to go, which will often go on for 5 or 6 minutes beyond the start time. During which time the mind flits between the heightened state of readiness to noticing the realities of the backstage surroundings, of hearing the voices of the audience, who are bringing there own individual problems and joys with them. In a moment the task will be to unite the disparate units into one audience, and to take them on an uninterrupted journey. And it’s going to be one of us out on that lonely stage for 45 or so minutes.
I wouldn’t be the first to point out what a strange idea it is to have a group of strangers arrive in a darkened room to sit and watch someone at the lit end of the room pretend to be someone else! Despite all the experiments to disrupt this convention, it still persists. And while live theatre remains in permanent crisis because of the costs and the fact that it is a minority interest, it will always survive in some form or other because of a need we have to be transported from our personal dramas to someone else’s in order perhaps to shed light on our own. No amount of 3D cinema imaging or detailed holograms can substitute for the immediacy of a live show with fallible humans.
And because we work in the medium of puppet theatre, we are also well placed for surviving an economic meltdown, as there are many ways of dodging and weaving a crisis by taking the stage outside the theatre building in the “traditional” way of the travelling show. In Russel Hoban’s magnificent book “Riddley Walker” the government propaganda is transmitted via the medium of official puppet theatre, in the absence of infrastructure for any other type of communication. Rogue shows emerge to challenge the status quo.
So for the time being, Su will continue to enter that spotlit space and create her gentle magic with”Remember the Umbrella” and I will be with her for our two-handed efforts.
And we’ll keep our post-apocalyptic skills honed with our outdoor festival shows in the Summer!