Saturday, 25 October 2008

What is privacy for?

(originally posted on myspace here)


It's an odd thing but sitting in a spotlight in the dark you're constantly glimpsing bits of your own face in the peripheries. This happened as I watched Mel perform Iris Brunette sitting beside us one by one, assigning characters and engaging us in coversation. I was there as a member of the audience but also (like quite a few others there) as somebody who knew her and somebody used to performing off the cuff, so when it came time for her to address me it was difficult to know quite how to play it: She was being brilliant, should I shut up? Was I having to pretend to be a member of the audience even though I was one? I watched silently for as long as was polite. Then I was asked my name, which I guess was a question anybody could answer, so I answered that. Then I was asked what made my heart race? I said "noise" which was dumb - I was very conscious of my heart racing right then in fact as both she and the spotlight stayed on me. But what I wish I'd said was "hiding."

And I think I got an idea of how to end "Iago's Little Book of Calm" (the radio adaptation of something sweary I wrote for the stage five years ago which ends with the central character noticing the audience, a much harder trick to pull off if they're not there). I think the solution might have something to do with talking to yourself. So thanks for that, Mel. Her shows often give me ideas, not directly as such, they're just good places to think.

The same can be true of Chris Goode's blogging. Laid up with this cold I finally got round to looking at his rehearsal diary for Hey Mathew this afternoon (upon which Jamie opposite is currently employed). It's an eloquent, passionate, generous and witty account of a type of rehearsal process I instinctively distrust (perhaps, as Chris suggests, because it's not a process of rehearsal towards a show as such but a process of investigation that should - and on this evidence, justifiably does - exist for its own sake). It was here I saw posted: "Can anyone help me out with thinking about this thing about stripping away the privacy from intimacy? And -- if you fancy it -- what exactly are you using your privacy to do?"... and I tried to post the following in response. The capchta was sletedso:

"Privacy is simply being granted control over the company you keep, isn't it? 'Let's go somewhere private' means 'Let's get rid of the unknowns.' A couple of years ago I was thinking a lot about hiding... about writing a children's book about a boy who loved playing games involving hiding, and then found out that being onstage felt entirely the same (dozens of copies where then made of him, all of whom ended up after an initial polite camaraderie keeping out of each other's way). So yes I was thinking about the joy of hiding (on one's own, rather than in a den, although THAT IS YES THE SAME) and about the stage as a counter-intuitively perfect hiding place. When I turned eight I would spend every school break walking up and down talking to myself, and this continued until I graduated. It was and is simultaneously a completely private yet public activity, and inasmuch as I am taking on different voices while talking to myself and, in a sense improvising dialogue, it is also a performance, even though it is not done for an audience, which is only something that's just occurred to me. I would say you hide on stage because you disappear, but this takes us down needlessly controversial, well-farrowed tracks about the nature of truth in performance, so won't. Maybe I made some notes I'll have a look no I can't find them. What do we use our privacy for? People affect each other - (actually I'd accidentally written "People effect each other" which is a bit more profound) - It is polite to refrain from effecting somebody without their consent. So privacy I think exists in case we're scary. Intimacy, on the other hand, requires company. A person can't be intimate on their own, can they? As an adjective "intimate" almost means "descriptive of an atmosphere requiring privacy" or something you wouldn't do in front of a third party. Except in the case of performance where it really just means somebody's doing their job. Maybe."

So yes I wrote that and then I went and saw Melanie's show. Mental, eh? And it's true about the school breaks. They used to call me "Walkie Talkie". Cough.


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