Tomorrow, I am off to Evora (Portugal) with thirteen of my students from MMU’s Contemporary Theatre and Performance BA (Hons) degree. We are bringing out show PANTS! to a festival of work from around the world. Details online here. We’re really lucky that the university is subsidizing this trip by contributing funds for each of the performers to attend and to cover the cost of my travel. This will be my first time taking students abroad and my first time showing a piece of student work in an international festival context. I’m really excited for the students to have the opportunity to experience a little bit of what it is like touring work abroad and am anticipating that there will be lots of interesting learning moments along the way.
Today, we’re in the studio re-making the show as two of our performers from the original cast couldn’t make it. We aren’t replacing them both, but we do have one new performer with us who was in a different show made by my colleague Nancy Reilly. Her students weren’t able to raise the money to go, except for one, so we’re working him into the show. It is always interesting re-working a show when the original cast isn’t all available – I actually really enjoy the opportunity to look at a show with fresh eyes and to think a bit more about what is at the heart of the work. So far, we’re making lots of interesting discoveries that are reminding us that a key part of the piece is its resistance to delivering a satisfying punch-line or conclusion. Throughout the piece, the students tell fragments of stories about their childhoods (some real, some false) and they often undercut or over run each other (but not in that slightly annoying way that seems to be endemic to a lot of contemporary British theater). The piece is a lot about what it means to be not quite a child but not quite an adult. I think the best theatre is made by people who can safely enter into that territory regularly: playful enough to be brave, but experienced enough to know how to do it well. We’ll see how it goes!
A lot will change in taking the show on tour, as always is the case: we will be performing in a church, without the luxury of a lot of tech time and to an audience who may or may not understand the language. We’ll also be adapting the staging to fit the space. What I hope will happen more than anything, though, is that the students will learn something about what it means to make work and then take it into a totally new context. As they move into their final year at university, I’m hoping this experience will inspire them to be daring, generous and intelligent theatre makers.
The students will be blogging about the trip over on the CTP student blog page, if you’re interested.