Sat beneath the pink arches of The Yard Theatre bar, I sip on half an aspall and contemplate what I may be about to watch. I am confused and surprised by what I watch as I have planned to come and watch a friend perform in a piece called ‘Celebration. Florida’ by Greg Wohead. What I haven’t fully understood is that there is a festival on called ‘Now ’15’ and there are multiple performances of new work in progress. After the first ten minutes of FatLip, I slowly realise my friend is not in this piece. As two men in their late twenties, who look more adolescent and remind me of an interview I read with Simon Pegg about a new breed of adult where the child actively exists for longer. In fact, I feel that this was the theme of their work, a sharing of the adventures they have had and the feelings that it awoke in them. They had a clever delivery using live music as an undertone for each individual anecdote told.
However, I couldn’t help feeling detached from it in some way. The stories were interwoven and a complex and honest account of growing up in this 21st century world. Part of me felt that the re-telling of these stories was more for the performer to re-live and reflect rather than for the audience to share in and connect to. There was a particularly delicate moment that I enjoyed where he met a young girl on the train. Perhaps I had more understanding of this moment as I connected to travel and the people and feelings it brings to the surface. Whether the audience was integral to the story being told or not it was still an interesting experience and one I would not have seen if not for the performance that came after.
‘Celebration. Florida’ felt the complete opposite in style for me as an audience member. The piece was centered on the main concept that the two performers did not know what was going to happen and we the audience would watch their immediate reactions to instructions being fed to them through an ipod and headphones that they both had been equipped with. It was quite a magical experience to be a part of and I say ‘be a part of’ as it felt that we were fully integrated and connected to what the performers Anne and Paul were doing. Not just in their listening but in their responses to the actions. Where there was surprise or two different interpretations of the same story of how they met a friend, you fully experienced every emotion they passed through as performers. As an experiment it was fascinating to watch and perhaps something I can imagine being in an art gallery, where it is not just performers acting out one man’s thoughts, but members of the public picking up those headphones and taking a leap into the unknown. The piece was saying ‘come with me, I don’t know where we’re going, but you can trust me’ and you fully give yourself over to the actions and story being told.
Greg Wohead’s thought-provoking piece was performed over 4 nights with ten different performers involved and it will be interesting to see where he takes it next in development. A Festival of New Theatre for the Here and Now at The Yard theatre is a fantastic venue and event for new work to be supported and flourish, I highly recommend checking them out for future projects and festivals.