Very recently we took Concerto to StudioBühne in Cologne. After the two performances and a workshop over a weekend, we all agreed that something magical happened on the trip. Michael, Katt, Nicholas and I had time to relax, had space to refine, play and explore the performance and crucially, I think, we all felt valued as makers, performers and artists.
When we take the show to a UK venue, the day of the performance is always an intense one – we usually travel to the venue, set up the staging and seating, sort out the technical aspects of the show, teach the show to a venue technician, squeeze in a rehearsal before performing the show and packing everything away and leaving the venue. This is a tight but always achievable schedule.
However, for Cologne the schedule was a bit more relaxed, giving us time and space around the performances. I arrived a day and a half before everyone else and I feel this time allowed me to feel settled in the city, to take a bit more care with the lighting of the show, to get to know the staff at the venue. By the time the rest of the team arrived in Cologne the technical set up was done giving us more time to rehearse and crucially play with the performance. Michael, Katt and I felt more relaxed and because of this we were able to feel each other’s rhythms, we could feel the show itself echoing the piece of music, we were able to add our own nuances to the score, as if our bodies themselves were instruments playing in harmony with one another.. We received flowers and beer at the end of the first show and the venue also supplied soup and a keg of beer for the audience too. Meaning that when we finished the show we could interact with the audience in a laid-back, informal atmosphere; fermenting insightful conversations about the work.
We then had the next day to explore a very sunny Cologne, making us feel even more relaxed but also preparing us to deliver another good show – to give something back. This also meant we had time to discuss aspects of performing the show too. Nicholas suggested a small change that better linked the two segments of the performance, it was a really nice moment that demonstrated how closely we had bonded as a team but also highlighted the benefit of performing two shows back to back. After the second show, Kobby, the artistic director of the theatre commented on how I was “older in the second show”, that my performance had matured, when I questioned him as to how I had aged he couldn’t tell me but simply said “tonight you looked like the man on the poster”. He also described it as “almost a champagne show” which pleased us all greatly. Then we sat outside in the courtyard of the theatre with the venue staff who had fast become our friends.
The workshop the next day was another moment of magic where the small group of workshop participants were so engaged, invested and open that we improvised some moments of brilliance. Michael, Katt and I really threw ourselves into it and we all agreed afterward how much we longed to play and devise something new. A lady at the workshop said some really insightful points about ‘pushing the boundaries of theatre’ and how this type of devising process, and the performance of Concerto, ebbs at the boundaries of theatre and even bleeds into other art forms such as music recitals. Everyone was full of such comments and thanked us with a genuineness that we all found humbling.
Now being back in the UK for a week, I have had time to reflect on what made the showing of our work so special and what UK venues and theatre makers can learn from our contemporaries across the channel. The time we had in Cologne to feel the two performances and invest in a workshop gave everyone a palpable energy. The space around each performance and the literal space of the studio and outside courtyard made everyone relaxed and destroyed the boundary between work and socialising. The welcome and generosity of the venue meant that we felt valued as theatre makers. Michael, Katt, Nicholas and I really bonded as a quartet and I am incredibly thankful to Michael and everyone at StudioBühne for opening my eyes to the benefit of space, time and value. This is an experience that will stay in my mind for a long time to come and an experience we can draw upon to benefit our practice when touring to venues in the UK.
This blog post was also shared on Michael Pinchbeck's Blog: michaelpinchbeck.co.uk/area/blog/#celebrating-concerto-in-cologne