For the past eight weeks, I’ve been hosting a very small-scale theatre experiment. I wanted to see if it were possible to start a whole theatre without any plan whatsoever.
It ended last night.
I don’t know how to capture what happened.
My hypothesis was that no one needs to learn how to act. That everyone knows how to improvise. And that no one needs tools or tricks or games or a method. That impeccable, powerful theatre can be produced just by providing a space for people to play and by having faith in their ability to do so.
So, I invited a handful of people. I told them it would be ‘some kind of foolish theatre’. There was a bedbase as a stage, an iPad for music and a few artfully arranged lamps as stage lighting. And no plan. I didn’t even know whether the people coming would be players or audience. (And neither did they.)
And, over the course of eight weeks, everyone who turned up stood up and took a turn on stage. There was singing. There was puppetry. There was confession. There was stripping. There was crying. There was quite a lot of crying. There was laughing. Lots and lots of laughing. There were cheap gags and high drama. There were moments of intricate and subtle beauty. There was sitting in the dark listening to music. There was dancing in the spotlight. One night there was an hour-long one man show on Brighton beach. Another night there were seventeen performances, with everyone present taking a turn.
But above all, there was serendipity. Every time someone stepped out into the void of 'I have no idea what I’m doing’ they were caught and carried safely by inspiration and coincidence. It was as if the tempo and pitch of the evening, the shifting moods, the light and dark, were all secretly, impeccably orchestrated without a single instruction being given out loud.
All photos of The Seafront Stage by Nina Timmers.