To ease the self-induced fug I've been in of late, I decided to go and see some theatre and a show my good friend (and talented actor, we trained together at Central) Pete Phillips is in. The show and his company (with partner Jodie Hawkes) are called Search Party and the venue was the The Space on the Isle of Dogs in London.
From the outset is was clear that this was going to be no ordinary night at the theatre, this was a performance event in two parts with tonight's section reflecting the fact that all the creators were living and working in different parts of the UK; attempting to create a performance together but never in the same place and what we the audience saw tonight was the first time this work has ever existed as a whole.
So in theory it should have been a bloody shambles.
And it was but in a nice way, that not only touched me but left me with much to ponder as my balloon floated up into the cold London air...but more on that later. The premise was that we the audience were at a party and we were supposed to be having fun; enjoying ourselves. Party food, soft drinks, balloons, party poppers and party hats had been laid on for our enjoyment and we were encouraged to get into the swing of things but in rather a dead-pan and cold fashion that made you wonder if it was all about to teeter into an altogether darker celebration.
The structures in place to hold this together were in reality a little flimsy: a series of tragedies, fresh starts and new beginnings but at times this conjured some wonderful, performative set pieces: such as when we sang Happy Birthday or showered the 'Birthday Girl' in confetti for her surprise-party-that-was-never-a-surprise party and the attempted conversation between and angel and a girl on a tin can telephone. The dialogue was excellent, when it wasn't being discarded by the actors and was able to stand above any other noise that was being made. It told tragi-comic tales of Trevor and girls with half-finished tatoos.
It was intriguing that Search Party wanted this performance event to bring artists, work and audience together; via the premise of being lost and having fun and them arriving somewhere but seemed to forget that to do that they much reach out to us, connect with us and truly welcome us; rather than utilising a seemingly cold, sinister and indifferent, slightly arch exterior.
However, it is the end of a play that you usually take away with you and Search Party provided a magical ending. On the back of our chairs were tied helium filled balloons, we were asked to write our names and something we are searching for onto cards attached to the balloons and then actors and audience went outside of the theatre and together, released our wishes into the night sky.
I stared up, watching the multi-coloured balloons disappear into the sky I couldn't help but feel deeply touched.
I wrote that I was looking to forget.