Post 2: What I Heard About The World: Rehearsals Days Three and Four
Over the next couple of days, further ways of developing the source material were explored. Alex, Jorge and Chris devised a “There’s a place...” exercise, in which they took it in turns to summarise stories of their choosing in short statements. The statements applied to a specific story, but were not allowed to be explicit about the country they referred to. Telling the listener about a country without naming it discourages them from defining places by glib facts or stereotypes, something the performers were determined to avoid. Some examples were:
• There’s a place where you can’t chew gum.
• There’s a place that's disappearing.
• There’s a place where you’re only allowed one of sixteen haircuts.
• There’s a place where choirs mime.
• There’s a place where soldiers are made out of cardboard.
• There’s a place where you can buy a ticket for a plane that never leaves the ground.
• There’s a place where rich people live in containers.
• There’s a place where people are paid to cry.
Again this highlighted which stories are most familiar to the performers, and which they feel have the most potential, but they felt it was an effective, inspirational exercise. It forced them to be concise and get to the heart of the stories, but does this mean that they are being oversimplified because the performers are so familiar with them? It was decided that this was a nice way to make the stories epithetical and memorable, but what will the audience take from them if they are unfamiliar with the wider story?
The show needs a sense of a journey, a sense of having been somewhere, and returning at the end of it. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the show follows a coherent narrative, just that it can’t be a list of stories strung together, leaving the audience to make of them what they will. The idea of using one story to start and end the show was raised again, and that a framework for the form of the show needs to be decided early to better inform the rest of the devising process: “We need to sit down and make decisions!”
Ideas were then suggested for stories that could be linked. The realisation that 71 stories would not fit into the show quickly followed, and wondering how much the stories could be mixed together. With this there is a danger that the show becomes about one character with hundreds of wacky anecdotes to tell. Instead there should be a mix of Alex, Jorge and Chris performing as themselves, the person they heard the story from, the people within the story, or a fictional person that reacts to or is linked to the story.
The connections exercise was then repeated, but this time only narrative connections were allowed (for example you can’t link two stories because they both mention planes). This threw up some great connections, with stories told in a mix of first and third person. There were moments of humour without forcing gags into the narrative, and the beginnings of ideas of how to tell the stories with drawings, props and interactions between the performers. This felt like a real confidence boost that the material was good, and that the stories were worth telling.