I performed my show for the first time to a public audience and I am very pleased with how it went. The comedy was received very well and I could improvise some jokes in places that were appropriate again to good reception. I was even asked by my tutor after the show where I had sourced one of the jokes from despite it being something I came up with myself just before the show started. Fortunately, I had the audience on my side and very relaxed and the performance felt more like a conversation at points. Something I hadn’t really expected was for the audience to talk back at certain points. I felt that this a positive thing though as it showed that the audience were comfortable and engaged with the piece.
When learning the script, I was mainly focused on memorising the 36 cue words in order as this was essential for the tech to work and the crossword animation to make sense. Other than that, I practised the gist of my narrative and certain key details. This meant that during the performance, the monologue could flow naturally and I could improvise in places, creating an honest delivery of my piece.
There were a couple of minor slip-ups, but nothing which affected the piece as a whole. In the show, I used a whiteboard pen twice, and by the second time I needed it, I forget where I had put it down the first time. I had to quickly run around to find the pen but improvised through it so as not to affect the pace of the performance. Obviously if I was to do this performance again, I would keep a better track of the pen. There were also a couple of moments where I slipped slightly on the judo matts but I kept my balance and in future, I would be more conscious of my footing on the matts which can slide so easily.
There was another mistake in the set-up which I am disappointed I made. I had some leaflets made by media student, Rachel Parker, which included the crossword and clues so that the audience could follow as each one was solved. They are professionally designed and advertise the show well.
However, due to the amount of set I needed to prepare before the show started, I didn’t manage to put the leaflets out on the seating bank. Other than this, the show was successful and ran smoothly.
The feedback I received was very positive and I mostly praised the comic timing and wit of the piece. I asked some people about whether the ending provided anything to take away and I think my attempt at something thought provoking at the end might not have worked completely in the way I intended. Overall, I believe that the performance was entertaining and engaging and for that is the most important target for a piece of theatre.
With my performance only a couple of days away, I have had some thoughts about the best way to end my show. I don’t intend on changing anything technical, but I am considering how the final trick should end. The ending I’ve had planned up until now is for the blindfolded Rubik’s cube solving to not work, I take the blindfold off, and see that I’ve failed. Then I would act ashamed about it going wrong, show the Nina on the crossword, and confess that I need more practice at the puzzles and end the show as I began. However, I have recently had a new contemplation for the ending. How would the ending differ if I never take off the blindfold? In this ending, I fail it solving the cube, never take the blindfold off, and act like the trick was a huge success, despite it being very clear to the audience that the cube is not solved. This would possibly be a much more comical ending as I would look like a fool for wrongly assuming I had done the trick right. It still has the potential to have a thought provoking ending though. Like the thought experiment which asks, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” should it make a difference to me if I solve the cube or not, if I never take off the blindfold. Solving a trivial puzzle arguably has no impact on anyone else so if the solver thinks they win, should the physical outcome matter.
I shared my indecision with a friend without spoiling the show too much or giving away the ending. They suggested if it was possible to combine both endings and it gave me a new idea. The ending I have now decided is essentially the new ending and then right before the very end, admit fear about what I will see when I remove the blindfold. I will then remove the blindfold and revert to the original ending. Hopefully, this combination will be effective in going from something comical to something thought provoking.
I have decided that my crossword is going to be projected at the back of my set and the solution for each clue is going to be animated as I say the word or the stage direction happens. I received some assistance from media student, Rachel Parker, to bring the animation to life and have included the video here.
As each word in the script will be an individual play cue, my show will have at least 36 video cues which is a very large amount for a 10-minute show. After discussions with the studio technicians on the best way to prepare for the technical rehearsal, I have noted down all the timings for the video to play and pause at.
As the puzzle games that my performance will be about are all about finding patterns, I want the space to be filled with these patterns and block colours. At first, I wanted the floor of my space to have some kind of jigsaw on it. The use of a regular jigsaw would be tricky to cover the entire space, and the small detailing of it would be barely noticeable to an audience and possibly distracting. This led me to look at larger soft playmats used to decorate children’s rooms or nurseries. They fit together like jigsaw pieces and the boldly coloured squares could be assembled into the tetrominoes used in the Tetris game. After discussion with my tutor, we found it was possible to obtain some blue judo matts that are similarly designed. Although I considered painting the matts to match the colours of the game pieces, once I tried laying out the matts in the space, the blue of the matts contrasted the black floor well and I realised that paint might ruin the block colour of the matts. I tested out different ways of laying out the shapes on the floor and was unsure whether the pieces should be placed in a grid like formation, or if they should be placed off-kilter.
The grid like formation kept the look truer to the game, but having the pieces off-kilter made the pieces look like they were breaking out of a game and into the real world. As my performance aims to explore the Tetris effect of puzzle pieces appearing in the real world, it is the second option that I settled with.
I also made some prop Tetris pieces out of card. I measured and cut out nets from coloured pieces of card to make many carboard cubes of the same size. I then folded and glued them together to form the building blocks for the centre piece of the show. I intend to stack the pieces physically in the show as another representation of the puzzles from a game entering the physical world.
For my costume, I also wanted something quite bold and interestingly patterned to match the shows aesthetic. I considered wearing split black and white trousers and jacket. The outfit is bold and the pattern matches that of a crossword or a chessboard. I have worn part of this costume before in a production of King John set on a chessboard where I was playing a king chess piece, so the costume has proved to work well in the past at representing a puzzle piece abstractly.
However, through rehearsals of the script I realised that I was giving a rather honest performance, not playing a character, and speaking as myself with natural dialogue mostly. The black and white suit seems to be a bit zany for this style of performance so I have decided to go with something more casual. Instead, I will wear a brightly patterned jumper over a black and white checked shirt. It is something which I would wear, whilst also being slightly eccentric and resembling the patterns of the puzzles in my show.
In my previous blog post I talked about how I planned on an impressive experiment demonstrating the wisdom of crowds could go wrong as an amusing moment. In discussion with my tutor, we agreed this gave my performance the tone of a magician’s trick that goes wrong at the end. The awkwardness of a magic trick going wrong can be very amusing at times. Good magicians often include moments where their tricks have seemingly gone wrong to provide comedy or to mislead an audience about what the actual trick will be. In discussion with my peers I was encouraged that I should subtly attempt to hang the lampshade. “Lampshade hanging” is used in scriptwriting when a creator want to draw awareness to their own flaws in the narrative to remove ammunition from critics and audience members. A famous example of this is in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
Sir Toby Belch: Is it possible?
Fabian: If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.
(Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Act 3, Scene IV)
The characters discuss the ridiculousness of their own scenario before the audience gets a chance to. I would need to do this to some level with my failed magic trick to make it clear that I had actually scripted it to go wrong so the audience don’t walk away critical of something I had intended to happen. Fortunately, the words of the crossword forming my script are the perfect device to do this. For instance, I could say that the trick not working wasn’t “IDEAL” or ironically worry that the “CUE” words in the script won’t work once the trick goes wrong.
For the finale of my performance I plan on getting frustrated about the audience participation going wrong and proclaiming that I can solve the Rubik’s cube myself in 30 seconds, blindfolded. Again, this is not something I can actually do, so it will go wrong to both be comical and hopefully provide a thought provoking ending. A magic trick which intentionally goes wrong is an unusual way to end a show but hopefully it can leave the audience with something that questions the nature of constantly wanting to solve puzzles without any feasible end. Obsessions and addictions don’t have an end and always leave the addict wanting more. This is something I want to replicate in my performance with an intentionally inconclusive ending.