Day 5 (Nov 8) – putting everything together

From left: Amin, Rady, Didik, Elizabeth and Shimizu doing an improvisation.

We’re almost at the finish line. This is the final day to put everything together before the team goes into tech tomorrow, and they’ll only have time for one full tech run because they’re sharing the venue (the Centre 42 Black Box) with a few other presentations that require time for plot/tech as well.

Short post today because every tweak is on a granular level at this point and I can’t type too much without giving chunks of the piece away – I’ll upload Xiaoyi’s four-page “script” / “performance score” after the show is over so you’ll be able to see how much it’s a hybrid of space and specificity. The score hinges on “time”, “bodies”, and “space”. Everything’s timed down to the minute, but there’s also room within those strict boundaries to explore (in a sort of meta echo of Day 3). In the morning, the performers are left to be each other’s dramaturgs and “third eyes” in a dramatic final segment that they’re having trouble ironing out, and figuring out how each of them relates to the other in this nine-minute cadenza. We also have to imagine the ghost of Shimizu-san, now back in Tokyo for another performance, summoning back what his presence felt like and how he moves across a room.

Xiaoyi returns (after working separately with Ee Vian and Andy on other segments) to see what they’ve done, and he doesn’t think it’s quite there yet. We spend an entire hour doing a minute-by-minute (and sometimes by second) breakdown of the fluctuations and variations of energy and structure of this portion of the work, while the practitioners are scribbling furious notes on their scores. This changes again when we test it out with a few different soundscapes – many of the sounds are environmental cues for how long the performers have left, especially when they don’t have the luxury of a timer on stage. They do have two separate timers backstage along with their scores and various props. I think it was Celest, our production manager, who told us about how performer George Chan accidentally reset his timer during Einstein in the Carpark earlier this year and could never get his timing back, which meant that for the rest of that show he was fumbling in the dark for his entrances and exits and had to do mental gymnastics by adding and subtracting exact minutes to his new start time – which makes me realise that the audience isn’t privy to a lot of the obsessive attention to detail that’s part of the fabric of the show, but also the complete arbitrariness built into some sections of the performance. e.g. For one scene of Journey to Nowhere, the performers came up with the idea of doing a quick scissors-paper-stone game outside to determine the order in which they’ll enter the space.

There’s also the contribution of the people not immediately visible to the spectator and critic.  Jing (who’s termed himself “the sound guy”) and Natalie (our steadfast stage manager) have also had room to wear the director’s hat in their own way, and Xiaoyi’s woven many of their developmental suggestions into the piece. I’ve noticed that much of this final day is devoted to Jing and Natalie’s very patient trouble-shooting – working around newfound restrictions in ways that are respectful of the vision of the work, whether it’s renegotiating certain entrances and exits, or how to cue in performers out of earshot, or figuring out how to move in a costume with less shoulder room than expected.

I’ll post up a separate reflection piece about my role tomorrow or the day after, but right now I’m headed into the tech run – I can’t quite believe they’re bumping in!