I’m going to be blogging and making wee videos during the process of making Class Act. It’s partly because it’s really useful for me to reflect on what I’m doing, partly to have a platform to talk more about the theory behind the show, and partly because some folk have asked questions about what exactly I’m doing in the studio space, mostly by myself, for two weeks.
In the run up to coming down to London, I deliberately didn’t try to pin down the ideas for the show – I did reading, did research, asked questions, had conversations about ideas, but didn’t write anything down and didn’t make definite decisions. I want the show to be the product of a full-time professional development process – both my last shows, “PROPERTY&THEFT” and “This is not a riot” were put together while working on multiple other projects, and that’s really tiring and not great artistically. But I also wanted to let ideas gestate, swill around my head for a while, develop.
That meant that Day One was all about splurging those ideas out. I arrived in the studio with a big pile of stationery, several books, and a lot of thoughts. Here’s a quick video:
What’s going on here is that the rammy of stuff in my brain is getting externalised – the theatre becomes like a physical extension of my thinking. This helps me see the possibilities more clearly – a simple example is that, if each big sheet is a scene in the performance, I can much more easily imagine what changing the order will do by physically changing the order of the sheets. It’s also a planning tool: all those post-its are things I need to decide, or ask, or acquire. So the studio of a work-in-progress is an externalisation of internal process. Thoughts are flipcharts, imagined performances have points in space.
Having space is really crucial to this. Physical space dedicated to your project gives you room to move around in the ideas as well as creative focus. Much at the research stage could be done at home, but it’s better when my thinking has walls to live on. For me, home is the space where my two dozen projects happen. To work on just one thing, I need to go somewhere else.
The other big thing that happened in Day One was a major Skype call with James, my collaborator in Australia. James is a really great social game designer and right on Marxist – we played a lot of games together when we were undergrads, and he’s since done really interesting work on using big LARP-style games in teaching setting. Just what I need for this show, which is all about finding fun, accessible ways to get into the nitty gritty of class.
James and I thrashed out the ideas and had a lot of fun doing it. He helped come up with some key game mechanics for the show – including a big meta-game that’ll last the length of the piece and is going to be tremendous fun (spoiler: you’re going to be charged rent on your seats) – as well as clean up my very lay understanding of Marxist economics. We’re thrashing out the full game designs by email now, and I hear he’s having fun with spreadsheets. He says: “Working on a kind of Marxist economy 101 simulator. When I entered in the formula and hit return, the rate of profit was declining over time. Phew. On the right track.”
Don’t worry about all the Marx, by the way. The idea of the fun and games in the show is to talk about theory without ever having to lecture – we have an argument by playing a game, not by shouting at each other. Plus, we made a really important decision: currency in the show will be in tasty sweets, so that if you get bored you can always give yourself tooth decay. Plus, there’ll be lego.