Certain Circles

Friday was the conclusion of the ‘Theatre of Illusion’ Project. We created a half-hour piece of theatre at 4pm. We recreated five separate scenes from Faust, titled ‘Certain Circles’. The recurring element was that of a circle which provided the ‘set’ for the actors. We had a white screen at the back of the performance space which had glued to it bits of newspaper without colour. The audience and musicians formed part of a larger circle outside of the performance space, with the musicians south of the circle, forming a sort of crescent. The props were made of, or covered with bits of newspaper, to create a kind of ambiguous colour scheme, with the musicians and actors (except Faust) wearing black and navy.

We used bottles, a musical saw, newspaper, 3 tam-tams, trombone, oboe, flute, three violins, bass drum and various other percussion. We all played instruments (me on flute and percussion) and contributed to the improvisation, which was structured.

I created a kind of “map” for the improvisation based on what we’d decided for the different scenes of ‘Faust’. I acted as a scribe, notating everything we were doing as we went along throughout the week. It’s amazing how, because the whole thing was so intensive, we’d spend hours on something one day, and by the next day we’d have moved onto another scene and would completely forget what we’d done previously. It was invaluable to have had a record of everything on the last day, and I was delighted with a pat on the back from H on Friday in the midst of the panic.

One of the initial ‘plans’ Harry set for us was to create two elements to each improvisation. One was that of a ‘continuum’, which would sustain throughout a section, and the other was what he called a ‘punctuation’ element, which was a direct reaction or signal pertaining to what was going on in with the actors, who played the Wyrd sisters, Faust, Mephisto, Beelzebub and Faust’s wives (there were three men and three women, which worked out perfectly). The danger with the punctuation element was that it might become obvious or too descriptive, a concern we had on the first day. In the end though, we had to abandon these laws of continuum and punctuation and just do something freer that worked out with the action. Surprisingly, and wonderfully, we managed to create original, atmospheric and exciting music, or at least that was the general consensus, even among the audience members who weren’t fans of ‘contemporary’ music. We were pleased to hear adjectives like “amazing” and “mindblowing” as part of the audience reaction!

The complimentary Prosecco afterwards made a great ending to the week, and we had a few words of encouragement and congratulations from Stephen L and Harry. I also got a lesson from Harry on Friday morning on my piece ‘Skellie’, during which he made some interesting observations about development of rhythm, and how I tend to use instruments together. His own music makes the argument that individual lines can be exciting, and independent from one another without being ‘tied’ to any kind of dialogue. To be honest, after last week, I’m already thinking about the composition process very differently.