Thursday, August 14, 2014

A big illumination from a tiny audience

I’d meant to write yesterday about how I think making theatre is a small but important act of resistance. 

Resistance to the pernicious idea that the most important thing in life is making money: because making theatre just by itself communicates the idea that other things matter more.

Collaboration. Companionship. Creativity and craft.

And also how much it matters to me that making theatre should also resist despair. Especially the despair our culture promotes and glorifies.

And how happy I was when I read what a friend said about my play:

"It's among the bravest shows on the Fringe this year as well as one of the most beautiful. And you'll leave feeling a bit more brave and a bit more beautiful too."

But then, ironically enough, something happened and I became discouraged.

I’m not altogether sure what. In the afternoon I’d performed at this lovely event, Out:Spoken [] at the Banshee Labyrinth, and people who came were so enthusaistic and supportive.

Perhaps it was because there were so few people.

Or perhaps because the walls and tables of the pub, every available centimetre of space in fact, is plastered with flyers and posters at least five layers deep.

Perhaps it was the weight of all our hopes and expectations.

Or perhaps the Banshee Labyrinth really is, as it claims to be, “the most haunted pub in Edinburgh” and I’d picked up on all the centuries of desperate poverty and squalor that impregnate its walls.

Whatever it was I felt myself being uncharacteristically cynical in the bar afterwards, and with a sense that none of it would make any difference.

And when, later that night, I discovered just before the show that we’d only sold six tickets at the Fringe Box Office, I found myself crying.

Which was silly, really, because I was just about to go on and had to rush back to the loo to blow my nose and wash my eyes in cold water.

Then I took my station half way up the stairs that lead to the church gallery and listened to our lovely front of house manager tell the audience to wait outside because we have a treat for them and while they’re waiting perhaps they’d like to talk to a stranger.

And then we all wait for the Tattoo fireworks.

While I’m waiting, I usually sit with my eyes closed and try to meditate.

But last night I kept them open...

...and watched with absolute wonder the play of coloured light from the fireworks projected through the lattice windows onto the wall above me.

I felt like I’d never seen anything more beautiful.

I don’t imagine many people sit on that staircase during the fireworks for the Tattoo. In fact I may be the very first person to witness that moment of beauty.

And I doubt, once my show is over, anyone will ever see it again.

But the beauty is still there: a free and exquisite gift for anyone who seeks it out or chances to stumble across it.

That gave me such strength and comfort.

The people who were there to see the show were so attentive. As if I was saying something that badly needs to be said. And that somehow they so badly need to hear.

And a reviewer was there with his notebook and lanyard, writing things down from time to time.

And I absolutely did not mind what they were.

This is such a strange business. Because in one way it is so important to reach out to as many people as we can.

But on another level, as I understood yet again last night, however many or few there are really and truly does not matter.

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