Updated: Oct 10, 2019
I am writing this on a train. I am on a train, travelling to Salford to pick up a hire van and load the Negative Space set into it. I will be doing this on my own. I have never done this on my own before. Kevin is unwell and I will take his place in the performance. We should be moving the set into the van together. I’m thinking about him a lot. I’ve been watching him perform the show on video several times over the past weeks, the last time I watched it was earlier on this train journey.
I’ve been learning Kevin’s journey through the show, attempting to work out what he does when he steps out of the box into the darkness, out of shot of the camera. It’s been like piecing together a puzzle; both Tim & Alex have helped me fill in some of the pieces but there is still much to learn. Each performer takes a different journey in Negative Space, they’re paths criss-crossing, overlapping, interweaving and interacting in complex sequences and simpler vignettes. I’ve learnt the basic steps of what Kevin does but it’s not a process I can do wholly by myself, this is a process that requires all the performers each mapping out their individual journeys to create the complex weave of performer interactions that take place within the plaster-lined box.
The plaster board is the second element that makes this a challenging performance to pick up. We only have the opportunity to destroy the plasterboard once; when we perform. There is a moment in the show, when Leentje pushes Kevin through the wall, Kevin is looking out into the auditorium, trusting that Alex will be behind him, ready to catch him. When I get pushed through the plasterboard by Leentje, it will be my first time. I have been thinking what it might feel like as I look out onto the auditorium of the Purcell Room at the Southbank centre and see Leentje’s outstretched arms coming towards me, trusting Alex is behind me and preparing to be physically pushed through something solid.
I have had the pleasure of being able to see this performance live over 20 times, I normally sort out the technical elements, helping construct the set and light the show. I have the task of controlling how the performers are seen, constantly adjusting sub-masters throughout the show, reacting to the mood of the performers and the differing holes that appear in the plasterboard walls.
Having seen the performance this many times has helped learn the show but it is a very different task. Normally when I am stood behind the lighting desk, I am witnessing the whole performance. Seeing all the performers preform their journeys and interactions. I see a different show every time – that’s the magic of live performance. But this magic is more evident in Negative Space, as each performance the plasterboard is broken, hammered and smashed, the space created is completely different. However, this time I will be seeing the show from the perspective of one. Kevin’s journey that I will follow, taking Kevin’s lead, following Mole’s wisdom and learning about each interaction through Alex, Tim, Rebecca, Leentje, Racheal and Mole. I am incredibly excited to do this, I feel very privileged and, of course, nervous and sad that Kevin won’t be there. I suppose this is the classic mixed-emotions of the understudy.