We had the strange pleasure last week of having a whole week between our presentation of Best Festival Ever as a scratch performance and the beginning of our shows for the London Science Museum. We spent the week assessing and amending the script for clarity, consistency and to make the science lecture sections of the show a bit more palatable and fun. Attempting to make the transitions between our games, story and science a bit smoother and neater. We have come to terms with the fact that the show is a little longer than we had expected. We are cramming quite a lot of information into it after all and while it is a show dense with science, examples, flowcharts, game rules and play it seems that giving a little more time suits it more than cutting it down. We then spent time working on our props and touring kit, getting all the pieces ready for our show, but also making sure we can safely move this thing about without a lot of repair work to our props having to happen on the road. To do this we took the show out to perform design students in north London. This was a really interesting experience. Firstly to perform in a different venue from BAC, then to see how we would go setting up and packing down the kit and how long it would take us to do this. It was also an excellent way to see how the show looked and went in a space unlit by stage lights (with fluorescent lights and such) and unused to such a performance. Performance wise it was an excellent experience in what it might be like to present this show in a non theatrical environment – in one where interest in the show is not the reason they are there, and how we can move the show in its performance to meet these audiences. Because of its presentational nature the show runs along pretty well on its own, but it is also open enough in its engagements to encourage interaction for the games and also hopefully in interacting with us as performers. One of the things we have always wanted from this work was to be able to make it flexible and widely appealing not only as a touring work but also in terms of the range of audiences and environments we can go into. As our first foray into taking the show on the road I think it went pretty well. A few realisations and things to change but it is nice to realise them now and hopefully strengthen the show. We have a few of these engagements coming up and I’m really interested to see how they all go.
The show is now almost road worthy so our next phase is about to begin – the final final touches are happening tomorrow and Tuesday morning ready for our first public show on Tuesday night! Super exciting.
My question is what are the things to be aware in taking the show into different environments in performance, environment and travelling.
We’re nearing the end of our process and coming up to opening night at the Dana Centre. This means a lot of where we’re at is thinking about something we’ve not needed to think about for nearly the whole two year process: the performance.
I don’t really think of myself as an actor, and I don’t really think of this as a play. That said, the show requires quite a lot of Rachel, Nikki and me – moving between narrative, lecture, instructions and interactions. We need to be clear and confident in our communication, but we also need to be very responsible to an audience – read them, gauge the pace they need the show to run at, figure how carefully we need to guide them through the interactive parts of the show. The beginning is particularly tricky – there’s a lot of talking at the top of the show, and holding the audiences attention is important, because this is where we lay a lot of the foundation of the show. It’s difficult to be energetic and engaging at that point without pushing too hard, but that’s what we need to do.
There’s plenty of work that we’re drawing on when we’re thinking about the performance. Chris Thorpe’s CONFIRMATION, which we saw recently at Battersea Arts Centre, was exploring the concept of confirmation bias. Despite high theatricality and breakneck speed, the show was very generous and clear in its explanations – pitched at just the right point for what the show was getting across. I can think of other performance lectures, too – version 1.0’s Bougainville Photoplay Project springs to mind as something that walked between lecture and narrative very well.
We’re going to try see 2071 at Royal Court this week – a performance lecture (I read “anti-theatre” somewhere, though that conjures some names that maybe aren’t relevant). It’ll be interesting to see such a direct conversation about climate change on a mainstage – at the very least it will be useful to see how other artists are engaging with ideas that we’re looking at.
I’m looking forward to developing a strong set of strategies for performing this show. Presenting it to different types of audiences will give us a range for how the show might happen, and how we can make the best of the all the work we’ve done up to this point.
In a show where the performative components haven’t been the process’ main focus, what can we put into place to make sure the show has a consistent quality?
After a pretty big week, we finished up the third of our three public scratch shows at BAC last night – it was a really lovely experience, and we’re feeling very fortunate to get the opportunity to test the work out there.
It’s a pretty lovely thing to get to run the show three times with real audiences, and it gave us a set of ideas and understandings that we couldn’t have gotten through anything else. Broadly, I think, the show works – with lots of caveats and challenges that we now need to address. The biggest one for me is the flow between the science and the game elements – the ideas in the work sometimes felt a little choppy. What to do about this I’m not exactly sure yet, though I have one or two thoughts…
We’re now about to head into our last week of development before kicking off shows at the London Science Museum. This is an interesting challenge and opportunity. On the one hand, we don’t want to pull things apart too much and miss our chance to really tighten up and refine the slightly rougher elements of the work. On the other hand, we want to make the best use of this opportunity to really get our teeth into what’s working and what’s not, and to lift this play up a notch.
So I’m wondering, What can we achieve in the next four days to take us further forward?
Today I found this article from a news publication back home – Empathy Gaming
“An emerging category of role-playing computer games is demonstrating how the genre can be used to discuss awkward, even painful subjects, writes Patrick Begley.”
I’m familiar with games such as Papers, Please and as Nathan said when I shared the article with him, it’s great to see games from indie developers getting coverage in publications such as the Sydney Morning Herald.
With Best Festival Ever, we are certainly attempting to use gaming mechanics to bring to light moral ambiguities, decision making tactics and questions about ethics and systems management. While the article makes the point that many of these indie ’empathy games’ are not focusing on fun, we definitely want the audience experience of our show to be very fun. Having fun means that you’re more likely to take risks, more likely to continue playing even when the results take a dive, more likely to participate in group games. (At least, I think so).
Take a look at the article and try out one of the games.