Heads, Bodies and Festivals
Tuesday started dramatically with a trip to A&E.
One of the warm up games we often play to wake ourselves up in the morning is an extended, director’s cut of ‘Zip Zap Boing’, that contains many new rules that we have added ourselves over the years. From “Taco in The Oven” (a rule created in honour of our intimate encounter with the Pittsfield, MA fire brigade last summer), to to the slightly more esoteric 3-way-nipple-connecting ‘Zippies’, our version of ZZB (as the cool kids call it) is like a family recipe; a steady foundation that is constantly being added to and refined.
One of the most infamous rules we’ve ever created is called “Beep”. Beep works like this; when someone (usually Jimmy) says “Beep” and claps their hands, everyone has to lie down, and get back up again. This is as vigorous and annoying as it sounds, but like any fitness regime or health food fad worth its salt, the unpleasantness of Beep seems to amplify its perceived value.
However, last Tuesday Beep revealed it’s more sinister side; as usual Jim called out “Beep”, as usual everyone lay down on the floor, and as usual I just crouched on the floor, fully aware that nobody knew I wasn’t doing it properly because they were all too busy lying down to notice (don’t tell them, they’ll get really annoyed.) However, this Beep was different because Tom England (a most vigorous and dedicated player of ZZB) launched himself so powerfully into the Beep that he split the back of his head open on the spindle of a chair.
At first it was difficult to gauge the seriousness of this event. There tend to be quite a few “larks and scrapes” in the rehearsal room, and it can sometimes take a few moments to ascertain whether or not someone is actually in mild peril. Once it was established that there was indeed some blood, and that Tom did receive “a bit of a bonk on the head” and that the head is “actually quite an important part of the body,” we decided that A&E would be a good place to take Tom to make sure that he was OK.
Kerry and Hannah were both excellent carers, and ensured that Tom remained calm and jovial throughout. In the end, it turned out that Tom just needed to have his head glued back together, which Nurse Julia did with aplomb, returning him to us by lunchtime. Tom has made a full and swift recovery, but still flat-out refuses to play ZZB.
Wednesday was about two things; clothes and no clothes. Clothes as in costumes; we finally got to try on our new costumes, picked out and assembled by our rather dashing and charming Designer, Georgia Coleman. Like the proverbial Goldilocks we tried on various items; some waistbands too tight, some blouses to loose, but eventually we all settled into various “little bear” outfits that felt just right. I have been clad in a rather fetching brown/orange/beige medley, in which Jesse Jones often mistakes me for his father.
Wednesday was also about “no clothes”, because it was the first day we got Jimmy to put his money where his mouth is (penis where his mouth is?) and strip off completely naked for a particular scene towards the end of the show. We were all unsure as to whether this was artistically interesting or even necessary, but we knew that the idea — like any other — had to be tried. We started a run of the entire show, knowing that this would be the one in which Jimmy would get his kit off, all playing it cool like we were arty liberals who didn’t care, but all secretly stifling an excited murmur that we were about to see our good friend and colleague, Jimmy, get stark bollock naked.
The scene approached. All the clothes — except a pair of tight, little boxers — came off. Jim stood at the side of the stage, ready to remove the final layer, and that was when they entered. We had been warned, but had forgotten, that Jesse Meadows’ Godmother and her friend were coming in to watch the run. They were both very dignified, well dressed and refined; all black clothes, thick-rimmed glasses and silver bangles. Eye contact across the rehearsal room went haywire, various hand gestures and facial expressions were cast around, and after a few short seconds, a consensus was reached that we would press on with the nakedness.
And it happened, and in my personal opinion it worked. We’ve since cut some of it down, but we have kept the nudity in as part of our show, for now at least. Jesse Meadows’ Godmother and friend greatly enjoyed the performance, although when Jimmy was naked, I noticed they were very good at not letting their gaze stray too far down from his face.
On Thursday we went to Latitude. They took very good care of us there; they were well organised, the weather was lovely, some of the acts we saw were brilliant, but most importantly we got to put our fledgeling show in front of an audience. After weeks of debate, deconstruction and reassembly, we did what we’re ultimately supposed to be doing; performing the damn thing.
The rehearsal room can be a confusing place, where opinions, instincts and taste can become a jumble of rhetoric that can become difficult to negotiate, but the stage is where clarity can really start to hit home. Are the audience listening? Laughing? Bored? Fiddling with their programmes? Yawning? Hanging on our every word? When you’re under those lights, with nowhere to hide, it can become painfully or delightfully clear whether the audience are with you as a group of performers or not.
And I would say that, luckily for us, the audience was in general along for the ride. We noticed a few dips here and there, but we are firmly on the way to undipping said dips, and we will undoubtedly continue to tweak the show in line with audience responses in Shoreditch and Edinburgh.
We’re still a little unsure about the very beginning and the very end of the show (these scenes seem to bring into sharp relief our varying views on what the piece, or indeed theatre in general, should be about) but all in all, it feels like we’re homing in on the show.