Osmosis 2

Today was the first day we had the entire company together.  I was terrified.  More terrified than I have ever been on any project.  This was strange, since I am more prepared and well-researched on Osmosis than I have ever been on any project.

The real reason for my terror was that I had decided to adopt a new, but hugely impacting change to my devising/directing process.  I didn’t join in.  I did not play the games, I did not do the physical warm-up, I did not in any way bleed into the Company.  I watched, observed and absorbed.  This was a new experience and not altogether welcome.

It was needed though.  This company will perform out of doors, in front of an audience who could do any one thing at any one time.  Quite literally anything could happen.  And if it did, I wouldn’t be there to hold their hand, or to help them in any way.  They also have the added danger of no theatre space, and therefore none of the supposed theatre etiquette that comes with such a space.  So the only gift I could give them was freedom. Freedom to grow confidence and competence without needing me to lead them at any point.  We seem to already have achieved a semblance of that today.  And whilst it leaves me with a sense of ‘redundancy’, I am very, very proud.

We started with some movement getting us warmed into the space; saying hello to the room, saying hello to each other, saying hello to ourselves.  Stewart led a dance warm-up/stretch.  Stacey led an exercise derived from Frantic Assembly, physically describing each other.  Sameena led a chorus exercise.  Carmen led some vocal stuff, which I was relieved about.  Physical performers spend so much time working on physical development I feel they miss out on vocal skills practice. So they warmed up their voices and Leah led a call and response song.

I saw interesting moments visually very fascinating – but all a bit serious.  I’ll come back to this later.

We brought down some Osmosis materials I had collected back in February.  We put the objects in the space and quite suddenly began to play. Real, spontaneous, sometimes serious, often naughty, PLAY (It was nice to see this naughtiness – being generous in performance doesn’t necessarily mean being polite).

We manipulated objects which came to life and told stories.  From four bamboo sticks and a large translucent cloth Sameena and I made an ethereal bird-like creature.  Stewart built a little house out of umbrellas.  Carmen collected ball pond balls.  Stacey wrapped herself up in wool and had to be freed in a mini game of persuasion.  Leah provoked a ball fight.  Characters occurred. Fleetingly, interactions happened.  Watching it all, I saw story after story and it was, oh so very simply, fun.  Not just for me. Within the company a simple revelry in the freedom of play was occurring. They surprised themselves I think, and in watching them, I was surprised, delighted and satisfied.  In what seemed like no time at all, each had created little installations.  These installations prompted revelations about the company members and the archetypal traits that formed part of their identities.  Threads of character appeared.  The consensus felt democratic and without preciousness.

We had a picnic in City Park.  I felt rather an outsider as the Company took a walk around the mirror pool, but again, was enthused by their growing ownership of the piece.  They pinpointed good spots to perform, little islands of expectant activity.  It was strange, handing over such decisions to them so soon.  But it felt right, so who am I to resist.  Osmosis is no longer just mine, it is becoming theirs.

We came bag and played a game.  Remember I said it all got a bit serious earlier? This was our antidote.  It’s the BIG game that we all play, a lot of the time.  ”I am a part of this group, I will do as they do, say as they say…or will I?”  Fantastic interactions had begun earlier and I wanted to root these down, to give the Company a clear, tangible memory of each other that they could take home and hold onto until next time.  So we played, we were tired but we played.  A process happened:
When I play this game, the voice in my head it sounds a bit like this – “What are the rules? Can I do this? Oh, maybe not. Umm, can I do this? Yes, I can?! Oh I see. At least I think I see. This works! I’ll do this! Oh, I can’t do that? Why not? I want to do that! Maybe I’ll just do that and see what happens…Hahaaa! I’m doing it!”.  I can’t quite explain it any better than that, and I saw the same glee and confusion in their faces when they played it, I do believe they felt something similar.

Now the question is, how do we translate that journey into a performance that can be both observed and participated in by an audience? And how do we incorporate character, story and costume/props into this journey whilst being flexible around the various practical barriers that outdoor theatre presents?

Well, we have got four more days, so I’ll let you know next time.

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