Creating Theatre without Tech

We usually perform in non-conventional theatre spaces: seniors homes, libraries, even outside in a park. Which means our performances have little to no technical requirements so that we can perform pretty much anywhere, we can open up our Tupperware of costumes and props and be ready to perform. In fact, we prefer this.

Here’s why. When we lose reliance on lights and sound to assist in transitions, evoking a moment or location or even to signal the end of the play, the actors work a lot harder to create the world of the play for the audience. The convention of the fourth wall no longer exists because the actors need to walk the audience through the story. This creates a more open performance which allows the actors to have a conversation with the audience through their performance.

So how do a group of intergenerational actors evoke a train collision in Leicester, England in 1950? Well first, the text needs to be incredible precise. The words evoke the world, the stakes of the situation and includes essential details of the situation and minute details to personalize it. Second, because we’ve created the convention of “minimalist theatre”, the audience is now primed to use their imagination. Suddenly a group of four actors linked hand in hand making “choo-choo” sounds becomes a light engine. In fact, the audience rarely ever questions it. Lastly, when a storyteller creates a sound from memory, there is a quality of authenticity that can’t quite be captured by a sound clip. “I remember the train made this deafening SCREEEEEEEEEECH sound from the brakes before the huge BANG when the train crashed.” The actor verbalizing the sound isn’t quite as accurate to the actual sound, but it is more evocative, causing the audience to personalize the sounds in their minds.

In the end, though we may not have the dramatic qualities of a blackout or the immersive qualities of a recorded soundscape. We have found that our bodies and voices have a way of presenting the story in a more open and uniquely authentic way. With the added advantage that it saves us a pretty penny as well…

Here are a couple sounds we are exploring for our “Trains We Remember” play this year.

  1. This is the sound of a fire engine during the Blitzhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/learning/schoolradio/subjects/history/ww2clips/sounds/blitz
  2. This is the sound of a steam train leaving: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ncg-U-Zxwz0

Next week, the GeriActors will be performing in Delburne, Alberta. Stay tuned to see what we were up to there!