Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Generating Conversation

Karen approaches us in the bar, weeks later. She says, ‘Ive been wondering, why did I tell you the story I told you?’

Making space and finding time. Sitting opposite. Playing conversation - talking and listening.

Over the years, alongside our end-on seated-audience theatre work, Third Angel has returned to the exploration of a mode of performance built on conversation, or interview, with individual audience members. Performance in as much as we know whats going to happen and they dont; or, at least, we know more about whats going to happen than they do.  We dont know what theyre going to do or say.  We hope that they will do or say more than they would have expected, had we told them in advance, what was going to happen.

Their interaction is what makes the work. It cannot even be properly rehearsed without an audience member sitting opposite. Making the performance involves making the space in which the audience member is allowed - encouraged - to be active, be open, be creative. A space in which they feel comfortable enough to think about things, talk about things that at, say, 10 o’clock that morning, they hadnt thought about for days, weeks, even years. A space in which, at the end of it, they feel comfortable enough to say of what they have given you, ‘Yes, thats fine, Im happy for you to share that with other people.’

Early last year I was invited to speak at a
Cafe Scientifique event called Sing to Me Muse - an event exploring inspiration and asking the old question, where do ideas come from? There was a great panel of speakers, and we were asked to give a short presentation and run a workshop activity. Drawn back to our story-exchanging work, I came up with something that combined the two - a way of swapping ideas that had inspired me with things that had inspired the participants.

It seemed to go well, and in Edinburgh it grew into a
four-artist plus host, durational event at the brilliant Forest Fringe. What really struck me was that the really simple format worked as as a chat in a cafe and as a team performance in a festival. This year the format has shifted for a couple of other incarnations, running in the breaks of TEDxYork - bookended by mini TED talks, and slipping back into Forest Fringe for the Edgelands flash-conference in August.

Of all the story-exchanging projects we've done,
Inspiration Exchange is the most direct, from the descriptive title to the mechanism of performance. It strikes me that in these interactive pieces, that I think of partly as 'conversation generators', the key is to find a clear mechanism, a simple rule, that allows the conversation to happen.

I'm excited that this weekend, as part of
Compass Festival of Live Art, I'll be running a six hour Inspiration Exchange in Leeds City Museum. As well as festival and symposium delegates, I hoping there will be an audience who just find me, tucked away in the 'back-to-back terraced house', and who might be interested to stay for a chat.

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