Sunday afternoon. I am making a singing banana. I am very pleased, not only has it got a mouth that sings it also has a single eye. Mastering the app Funny Movie Maker, workshop leader Alex has brought out the artist in me and a cyclops fruit can now be seen singing Yes We Have No Bananas.
This is of course deeply political stuff. I am and my fellow participants are following a long line of satirical animators bringing Punch and Spitting Image bang up to date by using mobile phones and IPads to film and then poke fun at the mighty. OK so we don’t have a banana actually in government (yet), but others are working on a lipsticked Alex Salmond, a singing David Lammy and a rather wonderful Nigel Farage who through the wonders of technology now speaks the words of a man from Bangladesh who we interviewed last week.
#HDV is between phases. We’ve nearly finished gathering the longer interviews – hot off the press are interviews with a Government Whips and the Director of BBC political programmes. Next week we are trying to get 100 ‘ordinary’ people to answer three short questions during what we are calling Consultation Week.
In the regular Thursday night workshops we are exploring the material. My job here is to try and keep everyone up to speed. Not everyone wants to read 10 or 20 page interviews – some do – but for those who don’t we need to do work that shares the perspective with the group. So we spend one session on bits of testimony gathered from all the people who work on the nuts and bolts of an election – the counters, the returning officer. Another week we look at the testimony of a councillor who only got elected at the third attempt. Two weeks ago it was people who don’t vote for one reason or another. And sometimes we can experiment with ways we might theatricalise the material… physicalising, using ‘stuff’, considering chorus.
But I have to avoid the temptation to rush ahead and start making the show, I may be ready but the volunteer performers are not. And I must remind myself that this is Vernacular Theatre, co-created, a piece made by all of us working as a community of theatre-makers.
I am in the privileged position of being able to work on this for several hours a week. I have read nearly all of the testimony and spent time mulling it over. Pip the designer and Simon the writer are also working through the material and they will both run sessions exploring how we might share it. And as after every session, everyone will talk, there will be differences of opinion – should it be character led ? could it be abstract ? should it deal with the Reform Acts ? should Russell Brand be in the mix ? where does the singing banana fit in ? To have an informed conversation in which children can hold their own alongside grown-ups we need to try and get as many people on to the same page as possible.
But at the same time we need to keep Foraging and exploring new techniques too. So could using Funny Movie Maker (and Vine) live in the show, mirror the way You Tube and bedroom bloggers are disrupting the methods of the established media ?
Last week Linda from Prague joined us and ran an exercise using 9 gestures politicians use when trying to make a point. We had to learn them, then tell a fairy tale while using the gestures. Question Time will never seem the same.