Telling stories with imagination.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Metta likes... Detail

I love seeing really close attention to detail in a production.
Peter Gill

I've just seen Over Gardens Out by Peter Gill Riverside Studios, directed by Sam Brown, and it's a production that demonstrates what I like just perfectly. Sam and his designer, Annemarie Woods, have paid attention to the detail both in the visual world they are showing us - Annemarie's costumes and set were wonderfully in-period, managing to locate the production in time and place perfectly and yet in a beautifully simple and uncluttered way - and also into the action as well.

The showed started with one of the teenage characters eating a fry-up. Slowly. That's something that could be pretty boring, but done well it's actually fascinating - a good actor can imbue really very simple activities with a lot of meaning - why did he keep looking around? what was so engrossing about the article in the paper he was reading? why was he so meticulous about cleaning up all the sauce from the beans on his plate? I guess I mean detailed acting, where the actors are really aware of their physicality (it's normally physical detail that adds the kind of depth that I'm talking about to a performance).

But I'm also interested in a slightly more conceptual type of detail, or rather I'm keen on a production's concept being detailed. I hope that's something that we do with Metta's productions - things like the radio in Otieno, where the sound started coming from the radio itself, then moved to the main speakers. It's simple things really, but it's a level of detail that's often missing from a show. Sam Brown had a few little touches that really stood out to me in Over Gardens Out - for example, at one point one of the characters was offstage audibly praying in church (except that the offstage characters were still visible, just out of the main playing space) while on stage the other characters were talking about a bluebottle annoying them flying round the room - it was just a small touch, but it made the concept of the characters being visible while offstage all the richer.

But then I'm also drawn to simplification and to minimalism, to finding the essence of a setting or situation - and deciding which details are important to keep and which are worth discarding is pretty difficult sometimes!

Let us know what you think - shows you've seen with nice touches of detail, or ones where you wished people had paid a little more attention to the small details!

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