A Pub Rant: Film & Performance & Participation

Politics, Rambles, Theatre

A friend, who line produces films, started a beautiful, foul, eloquent rant about her work which touched on a great deal of what I’ve been arguing recently about performance. I took it down as verbatim as I could. These are fragments:

“Every time I go and see something live, I feel patronised. really patronised. It’s like I’m not even a cog, not even a tooth of a cog. I’m like an atom in a tooth of a cog. Part of a thing that’s needed for the occasion, but I’m not needed for the thing.”

“When you’re filming, the crew are the audience. There are like 40 people there and they’re watching what’s going on, but they’re also like an integral part of it. They’re participating in the performance. And it’s really about all of them.”

“When you’ve got an audience in something that’s predetermined, something that’s been set out for you to watch and you watch it, I just feel rubbish. I feel depressed. I don’t care about the film at the end of it. I care about the process. That I enjoy. I like that, I enjoy that.”

“Actors are fucking cunts.”

“When you’re there, and you’re doing it, you’re making it with all your mates, that’s what it’s really all about. That’s what the film is.”

“Who cares what the masses think. It’s a bonus if at the end of the day a bunch of people see what you’ve done. I’ve jsut spent six months making films I’d never go and see myself. A lot of people mever watch the films they make. It betrays the experience.”

“The film is what you’re doing, what the crew are doing, not the thing at the end of it.”

“The exciting part is when the armourer comes on and says ‘Gun loaded!’ Fire. Bang. People doing their job.”

“And you completely forget that it’s going to shown at a later date. You just forget.”

5 thoughts on “A Pub Rant: Film & Performance & Participation

  1. I like the passion here, but I don’t understand what the connection is: She doesn’t care about the punters making her own work, but she resents not being cared about as a punter in live performance.

    I don’t buy that about theatre anyway; I care very much about the audience when I’m performing. I love it that they’re paying attention to me/us; I love them, and I crave their love.

    It’s never occurred to me to feel anything but part of the experience as an audience member, either. Some companies love their audiences, some issue friendly challenges, some clearly hate us and feel superior to us; nobody is indifferent.

    1. Thanks for the comment!

      Myself, I think I like the iconoclasm of the rant more than its theoretical coherence. That said, I am increasingly focussed on theatre which is heavily dialogical and participatory, which removes the “audience” as much as possible, and I am increasingly sceptical of the role of audience as such. (I particularly like the idea here that the audience is required, but that each audience member is not.) On the other hand, voyeurism is participation . . .

  2. I’m interested in participation too, but not in annihilating the whole concept of audience. For me, it’s abut returning to an older way of being an audience, a way still limping along, 3/4 crippled in neglected corners of populist performance; panto is the obvious example.

    The thing about the iconoclasts is that they destroyed an awful lot of beautifully crafted work, yet changed nothing in the structure of power.

    I’ve got a lot more to say about this, but I think I’ll save it for my own blog, rather than redirect this rant to where I want it to go. Anyway, thanks for posting this, nothing like a dose of adrenaline on a Tuesday morning.

    1. I suppose the reason I like this rant is because it’s a description of a personal experience which happens to play into my political aims for performance. Interestingly, she never said anything proscriptive about what film/performancee *should* be: she was more saying “This is how it is, and what my experience of that is.”

      I’d be interested in what you think the relationships between your panto audience and the Brechtian and Boalian ideals of audience participation (different, obv.) I can’t help thinking of my work within that dialectical context, which is sometimes crippling, but sometimes useful.

  3. Okay, can you wait a few months while I read them properly? : )
    I’ve skimmed some of one, nicked exercises from the other, and that’s about it. My thinking comes from what I’ve seen and how I react to it, and what makes me satisfied with my own work. I like pontificating about theory, debating it, but I read almost exclusively to find tools for practice.

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