Saved - a mummers' play for Stroud Valley Credit Union 2016
Update from Jonny Fluffypunk.
Credit Union Street Theatre Gets A Reboot
Last Saturday, we took 'SAVED', our daft agitprop take on the traditional Mummers' Play for the benefit (hopefully) of Stroud Valleys Credit Union, back onto the streets of Stroud, three days after a full day of 'outside eye' and direction from Tony Allen and Pat Welsh. Our aim had been to both improve our ensemble performances (thus emphasising the symbolic 'togetherness' of the troupe, itself a metaphor for the ideals of the Credit Union) and to identify and develop more rounded and differentiated 'individual' characters of the four players, which can then be played off each other to better effect.
The feedback from the audience - both 'lay' and 'professional' (there were several old hands from various fields of theatre and performance who had come along to check out developments) was that the piece had indeed improved substantially. The Credit Union people, who have had to sit through all six performances so far, were especially enthusiastic about the 'new' version and indeed, such was the strength of this opinion, it had me worrying whether the original piece had been dire. Artistic ego and all that.
Anyway, we did two shows; this time we were back at the top of the High Street, at the 'crossroads' in the pedestrianised area, at the peak time of footfall for both the street 'artisan' market and the farmers' market. The first show was best, despite persistent heckling from a local street drinker denouncing us for 'doing nothing for homeless ex-soldiers'. The second show was marred by light rain and strong winds; we had to shout, the nuances suffered. As nuances do.
So, what went right? Well, particularly effective was the 'group support' offered throughout by the rest of the players to whomever 'had the ball', performance-wise. There was swaying in sync together; there were 'tennis-match' synced head-swivels as the action shifted; there was the 'acting out' of ne'er-do-wells etc.; there was 'urging on' John (The Barker) as he rallied the crowd; the lot. It felt like teamwork, rather than four people each trying to remember their next line. The 'new bits' ,where I interrupt Ellie (Hero) with a no-bullshit description of the Credit Union, and where Mark (Bad guy) interrupts John with the 'I'm an equal opportunities Rip-Off Merchant', evoked spontaneous cheers and boos from the punters and I certainly felt that those bits now worked much better.
So, I tried to remain as 'dame' at all times; using my charms during the crowd-gathering at the beginning, f'rinstance. Not entirely successfully, I might add - I seemed to unhelpfully get all confused about my sexuality and kept veering into stereotype camp queen. I need to study some dames on YouTube. Ellie was much happier playing the Good Knight in clownish mode with lots of mugging and mimicking. John did the majority of the 'can't-get-the-staff' asides, and was generally the harassed and slightly bossy team leader, as befits his advancing years.
The only bit we didn't alter this time was the song at the end, mainly because we hadn't had time to come up with something effective as an alternative; we thought it more important to have something 'ensemble' to finish with. We then did a team bow at the end; which hasn't really happened before.
Still felt like early days, of course, and if we were doing an Edinburgh run or something it'd obviously work wonders but that's not in the remit of this thing; as it is, the direction has been invaluable, not least in making us all feel it's something we'd be well up for expanding on in future.