Monday, 16 April 2012

The Showreal Showcase Show

Phew! What a night it was, and more epic than I had thought to put it together! Deor aka the Stand Up Philosopher and I thought a couple of months ago - wouldn't it be great if there was a showcase event where folks could do sections of shows that they haven't enough footage of yet (in this age of the showreel-for-everything) that they're trying to sell to promoters who (understandably enough) say 'have you got any video of it?' to. And that maybe if we asked a friendly venue like the lovely Bike Shed Theatre if they had a free evening for it, we could solve the problem for ourselves and a bunch of other artists with the same issues! And so the Showreal Showcase Show was born. We printed flyers and posters, put them in places round town like the Phoenix Arts Centre, and posted it up on Facebook and associated pages, and waited...e-mails started coming in - folks were interested, and signing up! Excitement mixed with anxiety characterises the charting of a new venture, and I wondered what made it different form organizing events which we've previously put together? Well, firstly it was a number of other people, half of whom we didn't know. Which made it different from the hassles of putting on our own shows or something like the CCANW fundraiser, or the Glastonbury Poetry&Words Tent, where one was asking folks one knew. Secondly, there was printing the programmes at the last minute. This has often been near the end of the process, but again, not with the added responsibility of getting it right for other artists. Doing the promotion? We never enjoy that (I know it's wrong! but we never have - both naturally shy! Daft for performers but surprisingly common), and we had to do the lot - because of the dates there was no in-the-brochure back up, just us, and our two radio shows and Facebook etc. and Spoken/Written. Or was it writing intros for everyone? And so trying hard to get it right, while at the same time doing all the usual - the sound and lighting in an indoor theatre venue, positioning our own lighting (and new fog machine), changing into costume and character, carting the machines and costumes and props and books and sign and all the rest in and then out again, psyching up for our own performance, remembering it, the very different 'energy' of performing (when it's all masks, cloaks and coat tails/top hats) to compering or doing tech stuff...And so having to combine the lot. May be that was it. But it was hard work and it was stressful - and explained to us why no one was already doing it! Although something of the same was being done previously in the wonderfully experimental acoustic open mike settings of the Exeter Catweazle Club, followed by Duckaroo, both hosted by the wonderful Kimwei Westbury and The Jon Freeman.
    The logic was to film everyone and give give all performers a free DVD of their slot. And be (to begin with at least) free for the audience. We got there, and David Lockwood one of the co-Directors of the Bike Shed Theatre was extremely kind and helpful in showing us how to operate things/where things were, like how to use the lighting controls etc. We unpacked the van, folks started to arrive, all the performers turned up, some audience and supporters too, and (if flustered by worry and lack of time in the days running up to it and last-minute printer hassles/paper jams), we began!

We kicked off with a dance troupe called Stillmoving Dance, doing 1950's style number, which was a lovely lively and engaging way to start the show! Followed by Tim King, co-host of Taking the Mic and slam winner of the Exeter Poetry Festival Slam, who did a sketch of a performance lecture on physics show which he's working on - wonderfully experimental and just the sort of unique act we were hoping the Showcase would attract! Engaging, informative, interactive, it had all the hallmarks and promise of a great-looking show to come. Next up was storyteller Sara Hurley of Blazing Tales - she told a section from her show about the River Dart and Dartmoor called 'River' - professional and polished folktales interwoven with beautifully poetic observations/descriptions of the moor and flow, woven together in a hypnotic tapestry. One minute she was a quirky character in the tale, the next she was inviting us to sit with her by a limpid pool, and feel the drop drop drop of the river on our skin...wonderful! A real treat. Then came popular performer Jeff Sleeman with a collection of comic poems, many hilarious, and all on themes of modern life, ending with a humourous song. Then after an interval (time to get changed etc.)
we did our sector from the Carnival of Monsters - the Djinn Baltazare called forth from his box to tell a tale of his dealings with Sinbad the Sailor! I thought the huge bodymask with light up eyes looked splendid in the swirling smoke and coloured lights, and I think Il Vappo (my character the Ringmaster from Old Venice) is one of my favourite characters in our (Widsith and Deor Storytelling Theatre's) entire repertoire. People seemed to like it, and called it 'amazing'. And then we finished the evening with a spell-binding and show-stopping set from Kimwei, gifted percussive guitarist who stands beautifully poised on the contemporary classical/rock-pop divide, always either doing very deep pop music (with sort of folk backdrops) or accessible, danceable and delicious new 'classical' pieces. Last night was no exception and she wowed us all with a Latin mass she's been working on for the last four years, her voice (naturally more alto) hitting angelic soprano. A storm of applause ended an evening that had gone incredibly well for a first time show! And one where we didn't know what might happen next! We were so grateful to all the acts for being so brilliant and exactly the kind of thing we'd hoped for - experimental, variety of artform, things which folks had been working on for a long time, or were still wanting feedback on, or had performed as a full show a few times, but never got enough chances to do that favourite show (a familiar one for us too!).

   Huge thanks to Stillmoving Dance, Tim King, Sara Hurley, Kimwei Westbury, Jeff Sleeman and of course to David Lockwood and the Bike Shed Theatre for having us! And lastly to our lovely supportive audience. We hope to be doing another in the Autumn, or perhaps before (but in another venue as the Bike Shed are booked till season's end) and are thinking of making it a once-every-two-months event. Stay tuned!