Demo Week - Showing and Not Knowing.

'The best thing that's happened to me on a football pitch in years' (Audience response to the work in progress showing)


This is an overdue reflection on my Demo week experience, as I've been busy working on the process of making the work, I've not been keeping up with the writing of the process, but that has its benefits, so here's the first step.

A work in progress showing, and your first discussion of a piece are important deadlines, and should be set just the right side of too early. You need to have done your research (If you need it), and then it's a matter of urgently getting anything you can done in time.

Not that I enjoy it exactly, but I think it's good to be pushed into the making of something concrete, or you might never really get started or round something off enough to show. To complete a first draft.

So what did I manage to get done for Demo week? If you had asked me at the time, I would have thought not that much, however now some months later, I know that I did almost all of the ground work what what's followed more recently.

I commissioned the soundtrack, commissioned the art, commissioned the object designs, wrote a text based performance, came up with the structure for the object based performamce, produced a costume, and wrote a talk. Then I delivered the text and gave the talk.

More than that, all of that work, allowed the later making process for the object based piece to be much much easier, quicker and relaxed. It's allowed thinking time, plan, consider several ongoing projects as a coherent whole, and come up with new connected ideas. If I hadn't done the initial work, I may not now be nearly as far along.

Also all of the work for demo week is only possible because of the research undertaken beforehand, the metaphorical iceberg under the water. Getting to the end of a work in progress and realising that, is part of the process.

Finally Demo week was a process of getting feedback either through self-observation (oh this is what it is/what I'm thinking), or through the responses of others.

So in performance terms, while you can't avoid rehearsal, I've become ever more convinced that you can only know a work when you see put it in front of an group of people, preferably, who have no-idea what you are going to do.

As such it's important to present something unfinished, with holes and gaps. Or at least that you know is unfinished. A test audience will often not see the gaps, and take anything shown as a coherent whole. This is useful as it will test your own presumptions about what the piece may or may not need, what is and isn't working, and what isn't resolved.

Q&A sessions afterwards are therefore critical for me. The questions and responses you get can be simple confirmations, or completely left-field suggestions or responses like 'The best thing that's happened to me on a football pitch in years'.

For the piece I showed I got got questions and on whether I would lead the audience into the woods, and what could happen there? Why 'I' was telling them this information, and where the 'narrative' would go? Was it intentional that the woods acted as a backdrop, and that the ambient sounds of the park acted as a soundtrack?and were are all the stories I told them about myself within the piece 'true'? (Oh and questions about embroidery).

All of these were useful, and I answered all of them after a fashion... There are sometimes questions which I don't want answer because: My answer would miss the point, my answer would spoil the fun, or I just don't know...

After all, the showing of a work in progress should offer up as many unknowns, as knowns. As David Lynch has said somewhere, 'You're not meant to understand, you're meant to wonder.'

That all.

Philip StanierComment