20.16 Blog #10: Nooks, crannies and spades
My diary said Hull All-Dayer which could mean one of three things:
1. Punk, ska and folk-punk playing all day (1-11pm)
2. Getting rowdy with The Lads all day
3. Doing a series of workshops followed by running some Youth Theatre sessions.
You know me, folks. It was behind door 3.
As part of Grow Fest, I went along to the Daniel Bye and Richard Bean workshops. Grow is a cool fest opening the doors of Hull Truck to try and rethink their space, their programming and approach to new writing and new work (e.g. work not written 36 years ago).
Daniel’s workshop entitled ‘Theatre Is Basically A Pub’ was about bringing that informal approach he uses in his theatre to the table. The pub table. It was a good analogy, that in the theatre we’re expected to sit, neatly in silence whilst ushers, lights and seats enforce a strict set of rules about passivity.
On Wednesday with Say Owt, me and Stu ran a open mic at the Nook. It was lovely with just enough performers to make it worth doing, just enough audiences to make it full but not too many it becomes a slog or a rammed room.
If poetry can flow into audience, I think it’s the job of the compere to make them dirty again. If poetry can clean your soul, it can also wash over them. Right into those Nooks and crannies! The compere gets them rowdy, gets them responding, laughing, thinking and wiling on the next performer. The compere makes the audience a little bit naughty, by which I mean, awake and wary.
But Dan’s workshop was great approaching from a theatre perspective, and see from the other side, to unlearn expectations and apply my experiences to an insightful analysis of performer-audience relations. Plus, we played some dead good games.
Theatre formats are a constrictive luxury. Good audiences have no escape. On Wednesday at the Nook, people could nip to the bar, the toilet, outside all in the way (visually and aurally) of the performer. The comepre can try and manage this, but the performer has to deal with this. Phones can go off, people can whisper, scribble, yawn. It’s all close, it’s all intimate and raw. In some ways, many ways, it’s more terrifying than a 1000+ seater venue of anonymous bodies. The Nook had a lovely audience, but they were living, breathing and existing much more tangibly.
After my workshop with Richard Bean, I led a couple of workshops with Hull Truck Youth Theatre. If Yorkshire folk call a spade a spade, then Hull folk tell the spade it’s not doing its job properly. They'd love a spoken word Say Owt open mic, they would. Luckily, I think this scrawny York kid won them over.