Saturday, May 24, 2014

Where do you stand?

Iman Aoun as Hecuba.  Photo: Richard Davenport
This Flesh is Mine has been running since Monday, and the response has been overwhelming.  The Guardian has a great piece by Ellie Violet Bramley about the making of the show and its relevance to the conflicts in Palestine, which is the main Editor's Pick today!  It highlights one of the main issues in the production - how it complicates the audience's relationship to the geo-political significance of the Middle East.

What's very exciting, watching the audience in the site-specific space at Testbed 1, is realising how the experience of the production itself leads to specific decisions.  Because there are no assigned seats, and the audience is free to move through the space, sitting or standing as they wish, their view of the events in the play is determined (quite literally) by where they stand.  You can be close to one of the stages, intimately engaged with the scene - or you can take up a perch on a distant sofa; or remain in the first space, seated at a regimented table, deliberately detached from the unfolding action.  You can lean on a pillar, sit on the floor, or move so that your viewpoint changes during the scene.  And all of this is political.

I hadn't planned this.  I had thought that the audience would essentially move in a block between spaces - but what in fact happens is much more interesting.  There is a clear awareness that the dynamics of the space as a whole encourage different types of engagement with the story - and this energy is disturbing and inspiring for the audience.  You become implicated in the piece's Middle Eastern resonance, whether by being detached or by being fully engaged.  The play in any case problematises Achilles' "liberal" stance as the man from the invading force who refuses to fight - and this knocks on into the audience.  It's a really extraordinary thing - and it could only happen in the form of live theatre.

Sunday's show will add to this, when "Two Schmucks, Three Opinions" (blogged here a few months ago) gets presented as a 12 noon show with lunch before the 4pm performance.  It's a fantastic way to approach the debate!


Richard Shotton said...
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Richard Shotton said...

Implicated. That was the word used by our friends at Zoukak in Beirut to nail me to a sense of responsibility back when This Flesh Is Mine was first taking shape. I recall one of the actors in those early workshops sustaining a prolonged stare directly at me of such anger that it felt entirely personal. I am interested in your comment that "one of the main issues in the production [is] how it complicates the audience's relationship to the geo-political significance of the Middle East." Life is indeed complicated at times, and we badly need a more sophisticated public discourse on so many issues than that offered by our politicians and the media. Keep up the good work!