Sometimes we need that fourth wall in theatre
I loved Mission Drift at the NT Shed . Well that's a bit of an understatement actually; a few weeks ago I became obsessed with it. I downloaded the soundtrack and listened to it religiously for a week and it's epic, trashy, mythologies got under my skin and into my psyche.
So by rights I should adore The TEAM Makes A Play, Paulette Douglas' 'making of' film and I do, sort of. But it's also raised a lot of questions in my head about audience, intention and seeing behind the curtain.
Watching the TEAM make Mission Drift was fascinating. The parallels between the battles they go through to arrive at the dazzling show they have now and the epic journeys of their characters compared to their own were powerfully felt. As was the contemporary portrait of the financial and personal hardship felt by grassroots theatre makers today. It certainly puts paid to the idea that art is easy.
But while I wouldn't go as far as a certain commentator who wrote beneath The Stage's host page "art, like sausage, is rarely better once you see how it's made" - looking at you here Osvald - I couldn't escape the feeling that it was slightly navel gazing. Douglas herself writes very charmingly about the process here with her opening sentence "This is the snapshot of a story behind the story of creating a story" appearing to nod to the idea of how circular such processes can be.
Douglas was allowed incredible access to the group, warts and all and the results are not all pretty. But still there is a feeling that her undoubted admiration for the TEAM is powering her narrative.
In essence she is creating isn't creating a documentary for them but a legacy, one which is scored by Heather Christian's soul enriching music and which closely echoes the American dream of hard work prevailing over all. Perhaps this is the point but I wonder how useful or interesting it is for audiences who aren't in the industry. Will it make anyone go and see the show? And if they did would it somehow spoil it for them?
The current vogue for Secret Theatre and Surprise Theatre seems to be taking us back to a time when we prize the unknown, we do not want to see behind the curtain until the work is there in front of us. The TEAM Makes A Play is a superb piece of legacy making and as a document for future theatre makers and critics it's a doozy. But what about other audience members? Perhaps it could have been more creatively edited to extenuate the parallels between life and art and become art itself. The potential for that is certainly there. But for the buying public I can't help think that as it is by showing too much the TEAM taken away some of the magic of Mission Drift.
The TEAM Makes A Play will be showing in Edinburgh: theSpace @ Symposium Hall, August 2 to 10 at 1.10pm