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Shunt Fun

So now I know the true meaning of ‘the baying mob’.

Before we performed ‘Watch Me Fall’ at Shunt we were warned that on a Friday night at 10pm it was a bit of a bear pit. We thought we’d take it on as a challenge and thought it would be a good exercise for the development of the show. The idea being that the risk and energy of the space would teach us lessons about the material.

Well we definitely learned a few lessons.

The audience were a chaotic mix of aggressive interventionists, apathetic bystanders, flailing drunks and anguished sympathisers watching the tragedy unfold before them. As soon as we started it was clear we were in for a rough ride, and the intricate subtleties we had been working on were immediatley thrown out the window. It was only going to be broad strokes that could carry us through and when even setting yourself on fire is not quite enough of a broad stroke, you know its going to be a long night.

To give you an accurate picture of the audience we were facing, the bicycle we use to make the jump was stolen halfway through the show and had to be retrieved by a bouncer. As were the safety elbow and knee pads I need to wear. The bouncers managed to retrieve the elbow pads, but not the knee pads (which accounts for the large bruise and cut I’m now nursing on my knee). We were shouted at, abused, pushed, ignored, yet still, in amongst the chaos, there were moments of glory that carried us through.

The theme of futility was pushed beautifully to the forefront of the piece as we persistently tried our best to win the audience over to little or no avail. With rowsing speeches that became desperate pleas the folly in the act was exaggerated to new heights,  helping to emphasise the content we’re currently exploring. The arrogant young clubbers who postured and paraded themselves throughout the show served as perfect exemplars for the obnoxious, aggressive, masculine ideal we were attempting to crash land.

When you set out to use audiences as collaborators you have to except that you are going to come across audiences who want it all on their terms. Friday nights audience wanted flame and spectacle and when they didn’t get it they felt cheated and weren’t prepared to take the embarrasingly cheap subsitute we were offering. So they bayed and drunkenly staggered across our work, stamping their own authority of mass upon it and they’ve left an indelible mark on the piece that we are indebted to them for.

Both us as performers and a faction of the audience who were willing to collaborate got a truly unique experience from the event. A rock and roll car crash with two tragic heroes at its heart, whimpering and straining to be heard, moving from one hilariously futile attempt to the next. At various moments I looked into the eyes of audience members who looked back with deep, deep pity in the eyes and a worn out grin that said, “I’m not sure you’re going to make it”. For that fleeting moment, I loved them and I think they loved me.

Thank you Shunt.

Bring on the next work-in-progress.

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