by Howard Gayton
The following was written back in England, after the week of shows in Porto:
After performing three shows for predominantly adult audiences consisting mostly of students and lecturers from the college, the cast began to perform for children, and learned a great deal in doing so. They started to elicit responses from the children, and then had to make adjustments to the piece to deal with this. When children watch plays, they naturally react to what they see,often vocally. The actors had to learn to accept those responses, and integrate them into the show, but also to not to let the children over-run the show with their excitement!
The cast really grew up over the week of shows for the children, learning about show fitness, pacing, keeping their energy up, listening to the audience and reacting in the moment. The last show was performed to an audience that was above the six–to–eleven age range for the play.It could have been very difficult for the actors to keep the interest of thirteen and fourteen year olds, but they clearly realised this, and kept the pace and control of the performance, and won the audience over. It was probably the best show in the end, and I was very proud of them.
Within an hour or so of the last show, the scenery was dismantled, and the ephemeral, Tempest–like nature of theatre exerted itself once again. It was as if we had never been there.
The fairy tale quality of the inner place I have been for five weeks is now like a dream, a dream within a dream. It is fleeting, ephemeral, intangible, yet has wrought huge changes within myself, and many of those who worked on the play with me. I hope The Big Fish has had a positive effect on our audiences too.I have been on a journey, a quest, to a mythical land full of wizards, towers, struggles, wise women, heroes, Donazelas, animal spirits and healings . . .and I am now trying to find a way to fully return to ordinary life!
I will end this journal with a message I received on my ‘leaving card’ from one of the actors:
"You’ve made me believe that theatre is magical."
There is little more I can add to that.