I’ll get straight to the point; technologically, I’m more than a little retarded. Personally, I own little by way of gadgets – a laptop, electric toothbrush, a mobile phone that I know neither the make, model or what it’s capable of minus calls and text messages and an ipod circa 1900s (I exaggerate here but you get the gist). There are many reasons behind this, foremost being my philosophy of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ and latterly, the reality of ‘if I’m broke, I can’t fix it’. In truth, I just don’t understand it all and fear of not knowing breeds ignorance; I can barely manage to navigate my facebook account.
Imagine my surprise, not to mention my absolute gut-wrenching, shock-horror, when a few weeks ago I dropped in to pay a visit to a friend and mentor of mine. Taking a break from rehearsals I found her (please bear in mind that this lady is thirty years my senior and just as technologically stunted as I am – no disrespect) Skyping away on her Macbook to a film artist in Timbuktu about pixel resolution and DVD configuration yada, yada. By this point I had duly lost interest and entered a coma. I had only come for coffee, cake and a catch-up. Needless to say, I left hungry, thirsty and with a headache.
Theatrically, the techno-twit in me is cause for embarrassment. The production assistant on the last show I directed literally laughed in my face when I told him my sound and lighting requirements: “Lights up and then down and I have the sound of a car revving on my (practically medieval) ipod, sil vous plait”. My naïve and somewhat arrogant conviction that I needed nothing but the play and the actors bodies in the space made me cringe in my seat on opening night. My beautiful play looked like it was set in an abattoir and it looked decidedly ‘merde’ (excuse my French) when placed between the other showcasing directors whose lighting and sound made their plays seem comparatively like a disco. At least the audience had something to keep them entertained if the action failed to please. I had not the luxury of this as I looked back at the unimpressed faces of the audience, a collective void of expression.
In essence, I need to change my ways. My ideal performance is one that needs no frills and is captivating and moving all the same but this is a big ask – especially of inexperience. I have always thought aesthetics and mise-en-scene in general, nothing but smoke and mirrors to distract the audience and mystify the performance into greatness. But then I just need to look at the work of Robert Wilson, for example, whose performances are just as about the lighting and soundscapes as anything else, to know that technology can be used with integrity as artistic components to shape empty space.
Whereas before, ignorance was bliss, I now find myself consciously incompetent and I’m not liking it. If anyone has any tips on how to overcome my techno-twittery, pray tell – I’m in desperate need of some advice.