Thursday, 24 April 2008

"Instructions for Modern Living" (Duncan Sarkies and Nic McGowan)

saturday 5th april 2008
Instructions for Modern Living
Duncan Sarkies and Nic McGowan
The Pit
barbican bite08
Tuesday 1 April – Saturday 5 April 2008
New Zealand

this is the show we saw last night - from nz as you will see.
and interestingly we were a split jury on this one:
i loved it and martyn hated it (amended this to a more neutral response after hearing them talk about the making and performing of it in the post show talk).

they take the model of a band performing a set of 'songs', except that in this case the 'songs' are written dialogues and monologues of an array of characters trying to get through a long night of sleeplessness to the morning, written and performed by duncan sarkies with live music made and performed by nic mcgowan. they made the show very much together in a series of 'jam sessions' -impro-ing the words alongside the music.

the piece is very laid back, lethargic, melancholic, amorphic (add further nightime slowmoving adjectives of your choice - martyn's might be laconic. soporiphic. deadly...) - very nz in in this deliberately unhurried atmosphere and one of our criticisms is that all the effects added together into this one same affect - music, lighting, words performance, images - there was nothing acting in counterpoint. so what you got was a stage full of tech kit - sound gear & musical instruments (keyboards, vodophone, weird electronic thingy - therefone we think it's called - you play it with your hands seemingly thru thin air), microphone, music stand that duncan used to work thru and discard his scripts from, video camera, old fashioned record player with a sarah vaughn l.p. on it. and behind them a large screen that images were played on and that we saw thru the layer of them and their equipment. they wanted us to see them physically making the show as it happened and to know that all the sound and many of the video images were live. so you get this very trance like music being set up in a series of layered loops building up on top of and over each other: keyboard, synth orchestral sounds, voice, etc etc etc. behind this different night time images suggesting the scene of the story.

and we get story after story - always from the 1st person - so either monoloque or dialogue. all performed thru a microphone so the change in voices and sounds that duncan was able to give us was phenomenal.

we start with...

...a house at night with it's lights on until we see a shadowey person come thru into the front room and then leave turning out the lights:

"we haven't told wendy about the ghost that lives in her room. wendy is our new flatmate and we want her to stay for a bit. so we haven't told her about the ghost. but the ghost seems to like wendy. it is always there in her room when she comes home from work. and again when she goes up to bed..."

... an apartment block in the rain with all its lights blazing away thru the gloom:

"it's 3am and i'm here at radio whatever waiting to take your calls. whatever your problems give me a call and let's talk. well i see the board is clear so i'm standing by and ready for your call. we all have problems. and let's face it anyone who is awake and listening to this show at this time in the morning has certainly got a problem or two. so the board is still showing clear so i'm ready to talk to you. well perhaps i should get the ball rolling. i had a troubled childhood. like a lot of people. not a happy little child...."

...a car driving thru city streets seen through the front window:

"...i'm on my way home. and i know that i'm not going to like what i find when i get there. i know my wife will be home. but i also know she won't be very happy to see me. chances are she'll be in bed already, pretending to be asleep when i walk in. there'll be nothing for dinner i shouldn't think..."

this story finished with the car reversing:

" what if we could rewind the tape of our lives. where would you like to go back to? back to that time you were young and out partying every night? back to being at school and never getting picked for the cool teams? back to being a young kid and...."

...a screen of static:

"...huston this is friendship, over"
" friendship this is huston. receiving you loud and clear, over"
"roger that huston. nothing to report. all isgood here. over"
" copy that friendship."
"actually, when i say all is good here there that's not quite the truth. actually, i'm not so good with words, but well how to say, i guess it's just that i'm really bored. over"
"huston? please confirm you are receiving. over"
"oh. this is huston. yes. copy that friendship. just can't think of how to help really. over."

"this is friendship. yes roger that huston. i guess this is one i'll just have to work through by myself"
"actually frienship, i'm pretty bored myself as it happens. over"
"oh. well i've got a power nap scheduled so i'll sign out huston"
"there's nothing to do here. and i haven't even got a window. what do you see through your window friendship? over"

"well huston. you know the pictures of the earth you see quite often on the covers of those atlases?"
"well the view from my windon pretty much looks like that."
"oh. copy that friendship"

....a figure leaning against a wall looking at a wall of tvs in a shop windowall playing the same pictures:
sorry - can't remember this story but it was my favourite image and i went into a bit of my own dream with it i think
...a silhouette in a pub of a couple of blokes facing each other over a table with their beer glasses:

(bass voice) "did you hear about the brazillian?"
(pipey voice) "that's a landing strip isn't it?"
"no. i mean the people. from brazil. the brazillian the police shot in london in the tube station?"
"oh. yeah"
"it's not right that. it's just because he was of the wrong colour."
"'ve got to be right colour these days"
"especially over there you do. since 9/11 they've got police everywhere."
"wasn't 9/11 america?"
"well you know what i mean. they've toughened all the security up and you can't move anywhere over there now"
"really? sounds like a terrible place to be"

...a silhouette of a couple in armchairs from the back with their tea cups on side tables watching a tv show about a gadget for putting your hair into aperfect bun:

"are you enjoying this?"
"yes i am. it's interesting."
"oh. do you think so."
"yes i do. why? what do you want to watch?"
"no no this is fine."
"if you want to watch something else just say so."
"no this is fine."
"we could turn it off."
"and do what?"
"and have a conversation. we never talk."
"allright then."
"what do you want to talk about?"
"you start. it was your idea."
"ok... this is a really nice cup of tea"
" on no no no. that's not a conversation. you cannot have a conversation about a cup of tea"

i've taken a lot of liberties with the writing of these from memory - the essence is there but duncan sarkies is a proper writer and i'm trying to just recapture my future recollection.
gives you the idea tho i think.

there was also a happy monologue along the lines of ...

" did i get so lucky. i'd resigned myself to spending the rest of my love life lover-less. and then you came along. what did i do to deserve you? ..."

and the last piece was a new age sermon about rejoicing in the beauty and wonder of the world and its natural beauty with the only day time images they used - waterfalls, dolphins and other 'glorious nature' pics - because they wanted to have something different in the mix and a place to lead to and end with. but it didn't come off well for us and it was too unclear that the tone was meant to be heavily ironic (where the rest of the voices had been - to themselves at least - sincere & true).

so anyway...
i am watching and thinking:
wow this is so exciting and what a brilliant model for a way to make a show and how great to be given all this space to have my own thoughts and dreams in and maybe these aren't the stories i would want to be telling but as a jumping off point for imagining and experiencing something how rish and wonderful and how cool that i'm gonna get the chance to be learning some of this technology at g'smiths and yes yes yes ...
and i turn to martyn at the end and say

"wasn't that so great. what did you think?"

and he says:

"i hated it!"

cos i think he has meanwhile been watching and thinking:

"oh god i recognise all these no-hoper losers all too well and i am so not interested in their stories and god this is self-indulgent and slow and who cares and this is soooo nz not in a good way and all right all right i get the message move on already ..."

then from the post show talk and quite a lot of our own post show talking we have both modified our views closer together so he doesn't hate it quite so much and can see things to like about it and i have admitted it some faults and agreed that a big one of these was that there was no anticipation or surprise - you kinda figured out what you were going to get early on and then as the piece progressed you had less and less need - and thus desire - to stay alert and involved.

but another thrilling experience at the theatre in ye ole london towne.

and fantastic to be getting cutting edge performance this good from our homeland.


mootertown said...

Great Blog Mark. Very informative. Like your use of language.

mark trezona said...

thank you muchly
now that i've got the formatting settled - for now at least - p'raps i can get the backlog of show info slowly poured in.
but launched we are ...