Monday, August 11, 2014

A real drama in a theatrical court: taking part in 'Horizontal Collaboration'

So there we were. The four of us. All lined up in the very sinister corridor in the bowels of the Traverse. 

Waiting to go on in David Leddy’s Horizontal Collaboration, with Olwen Fouere’s beautiful voice booming the lines of Finnegan’s Wake from eerily above us. 

We were all lined up in the order we were supposed to go onto the stage, feeling not much like the UN lawyers we were supposed to be portraying but a bit more as if we were about to be shot.

We enjoyed a brief fantasy of escaping down the corridor. In our order, of course.

The conceit of the show was that we were playing lawyers reading out transcripts in the War Crimes court in The Hague; transcripts that were prepared by someone else and that our characters had not had the opportunity to read before.

And neither had we.

“This is a common occurrence”, apparently, and our characters “feel calm about it”.

Calmness felt about a million miles away. I was wondering why on earth I was there. To get the experience had been the idea, and get the exposure.

I’ve done very little acting; there are not that many parts for trans women in their sixties. 

It’s important to grab any experience I can. So I can learn; and raise my profile as an actor and performer. So that people know that’s what I am, as well as a writer.

And by ‘people’ I also mean me.

We’d been very well looked after, and so besides the normal panic I did really have a calm sense that I would get through it.

We were to sit in a line at desks each lit by two lamps, one harsh, and one a soft glow, read the script off laptops, turn off our lamps one by one when the script instructed us, and finally close our laptops.

And mine performed impeccably in our very brief rehearsal.

But when I took my place in front of the audience my laptop now had a message plastered across it telling me updates were available and asking me if I wanted them installed?

Not a helpful bit of information. Especially as it wouldn't let me say no.

So my computer was unusable and I had to lean over to read my neighbour’s - who in my first line I was supposed to be interrupting!

Somebody then gave me the printed script. Which was paginated differently from the document on the computer; and then about half way through I suddenly found myself apparently confronted with a script that was completely different from everyone else’s.

I think someone must have skipped a page. ..

And in the meantime the lights had been going off one by one.

I’m sure it was a lovely effect, but it was making my script harder and harder to read.

And then the computer screens started closing...

I turned my soft glow back on and managed by its light and the light from my otherwise completely useless computer screen.

And then towards the end it started to dawn on me that I was the last to speak. After which I was supposed to shut my computer to leave the stage in darkness.

And I knew I couldn't do that and turn off my soft glow at the same time. So I shut the computer first and then the soft glow last.

Reading this highly complex and tense and emotional material in an emotionless voice (as I was asked to) at the same time.

So I certainly got some experience.

David Leddy is a brilliant writer and I have the vague impression it was a beautifully crafted story.

I’d been looking forward to reading it. The script dealt with atrocities, which as artists we must somehow confront, and I’d been looking forward to seeing how he dealt with them.

But I was so preocupied with getting from one line to the next I have emerged with no clear overall sense of the story at all.

Which I regret...

I've no idea how I came across. I'd intended to try not to sound too masculine. 

I’m exploring ways of softening my voice on stage so it sounds more feminine. But on stage, as in life, the minute I have to convey authority it is impossible to get away from the masculine.

Deeply embedded stereotypes seem to make it impossible to do anything else.

It fascinates me. There is a whole range of power and gender performing possibilities possessed by a trans actor that one day I would so love to explore.

In a part like this one where the gender status of the character is not the primary focus. But an amazing rich range of possibilities there to be explored....

I’m getting ahead of myself. By about ten years.

As usual...

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