Telling stories with imagination.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010


Abrahm & Isaac | Photograph William Reynolds
So this time last week we were busily reviving our Southbank show - Waiting (the verbatim piece about British Muslim women whose husbands were held without trial in Guantanamo and Belmarsh), which went fantastically well and sold out again (hurrah!), but has got me thinking about revivals. Because as well as Waiting we have also revived this year Abraham & Isaac (one of our puppet operas, well technically one of Benjamin Britten's Canticles, that we premièred last year at the Grimeborn Festival, Arcola) and Journey of The Magi (another Britten canticle we scratched and hatched back in Feb/March at the Little Angel Theatre & Shunt vaults - before they closed alas!!!) both of which we combined in the show Canticles at The Little Angel in April. And in terms of future revivals of course we're desperate to bring back Otieno next year.

So you'd think doing something the second time round would be easier - you know that it works and that there are people out there who want to see it, and of course it's an opportunity to polish up some of the flaws that only became apparent once you put it in front of an audience. Plus you physically have the production - no frenzied last minute trips to buy head scarves or all-night puppet-making sessions. And practically speaking it is easier. But, and maybe this is just me, in a perverse way it's more stressful. Perhaps it's all a useful lesson in expectation management - but because you know it worked the first time round (assuming you only try to revive the 'successful' shows) there's an expectation that it must surpass the initial production. And artistically speaking for me our little revivals this year have done that - no doubt in part because all of them have been polished and dramaturgically improved in the intervening gaps. Nonetheless the stress factor is still somehow higher, because of the expectation to achieve this. And also your in-depth knowledge of the piece makes it even harder to attain the objectivity of an audience-member off the street who hasn't sat with the work in the rehearsal room and in their minds for how-ever many months, or sometimes years.

So what's the lesson? Obviously it's great to give a show future life - if there are still aspects of it that need to be developed/fully realised artistically or simply because audience demand exceeded supply, and you know there's still a massive audience out there dying to see some verbatim music theatre, or some opera with puppets. So I guess one just has to trust to the process, let go of any expectations of supposed/hoped for 'greatness' and re-discover the spontaneity to see it with fresh eyes.

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