SHOW WEEK: TO KNOW HOW YOU STAND 2.0: 50 YEARS OF PROTEST AT WARWICK UNIVERSITY

Show Week: TO KNOW HOW YOU STAND 2.0 Blog by Ben Kulvichit

The last week is pretty full-on. There’s a session on Wednesday in which we pool together all the material and conceptual ideas we’ve generated thus far and try to create the framework for a show from it. It’s four hours of thinking and shuffling and talking and arguing points of view and trying to make meaning. How do we get the audience to perform an act of protest? We’re talking about a crisis point of some sort, but what might that look like, and what would it mean? How much agency do we give the audience by asking them to throw eggs at us – will this be an act of protest or one of compliance?

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We’ve got a pretty good idea of what it’s going to look like by the end, and the following sessions are about working through the structure section by section, writing text, putting together a script, working out transitions, assigning roles. By the Sunday afternoon we’ve got a show, which we run for outside eyes. We make some big structural changes afterwards. We cut sections which we’d thought were significant elements of the piece. The crisis feels too defeatist, and negates the rest of the rest of the show. It goes. The eggs don’t quite work – the audience needs an impetus to throw them. We change the rules. We have to figure out how to cut down the running. There’s SO MUCH running.

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The last two days are a joy. We move into the Warwick Arts Centre studio, tech it on Monday. We do a run for a small invited audience in the evening, and that’s when things click into place. It feels smooth and engaged, the pace is right and with the element of audience participation in the show, it’s great to be able to talk to people, to let them dictate the energy of the show at certain points, to work with them. Interestingly, Tuesday becomes more about rediscovering the things we had right at the beginning of the process – now that we have a tight structure to adhere to and cues to hit, it’s easy to forget our presence together as an ensemble.

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We do that very simple exercise – walking and balancing the space, making eye contact – and it feels a bit like waking up. We reconnect and everything will be good as long as we hold onto this feeling. By the time the show starts I think to myself we make a good ensemble – we’re a group of quite different individuals and our differences complement each other. The mantra that we chant in the show, ‘difference is just difference’, is apt. It’s easy to trust everyone else to support each other during the performance. It occurs to me that any successful show needs to be built on these utopian values of community. The rehearsal room is a uniquely utopian space, with its own rules (although we haven’t mentioned it since writing it, the ‘contract’ we wrote on day one has been fundamental to way we’ve worked together) that may not apply elsewhere, or are hard to achieve outside, but can and must exist inside. I think that if we translate that into performance, if we bring it with us into the theatre, that must be an act of protest, or the start of one.

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