Updated: Jul 31
Sometimes I write blogs to clarify my thoughts about matters of theatrical theory and practice.
Today I'm doing it because tomorrow is my first time being interviewed by an actual, printed-on-dead-trees newspaper, and I want to clarify my thoughts about what is useful for me to say.
I have been advised to 'be natural.' During rehearsals last week, I gave the singers a camera to record affairs. As the picture on the right shows, 'natural' may not be the best strategy for me. This is also suggested, perhaps, by a loose grasp of code-switching - the importance of adapting codes of behaviour to different social situations. I am, after all, from an assimilated British-Pakistani family - the instinct is to 'be normal', not natural and potentially alien to my audience.
So, being more specific, what is useful for me to say? I have been advised to be passionate, which seems like excellent advice. However, I am personally bored by artists whose passion for the (admittedly exciting) dynamics of the rehearsal room leads them into endless anecdotes about their wonderful, witty friends. It is better to show passion about things of depth and interest to those outside the room, not tell pub-bore stories about 'this one time, me and my mate were in this room...'
Similarly, I don't want to utter banal platitudes about 'this work is really important in our times because it resonates with our contemporary human experience.' There are things that make each piece special, and I want to talk about them in their full richness and complexity.
Equally, I'm aware that my passion for things operatic and historical can make me communicate really badly, referencing things that only other people with very similar interests to mine might know. So should I leave such things out? Is that 'dumbing-down' or 'communicating well'? After all, I only have so much time in which to speak. One of the joys of communicating with academics is that sometimes, their ideas really are so complicated that you couldn't explain them to a child in a sentence. They need lots of sentences, slowly building a pyramid of understanding until you can stand atop it and reach the original idea. This process takes time, and that's something limited column inches and the need for clicks tends to avoid.
(If anyone wants me to write a full-length article, let me know. I'd be happy to oblige you.)
In short, the challenge is: the things I think would be interesting to talk about are quite complicated, I'm not sure they can be explained well within in a short space of time, and I don't want to reduce them to meaningless platitudes. How to go about this?
1. Spend some time tonight preparing, working out how to say things in a clear and concise way.
2. Revisit my own reasons for being interested in the project. I am not a hugely complex person, and there are many reasons for my interest that are pretty straightforward, and not nerdy navel-gazing.
3. Identify things that require more time to say, and work out how to signpost people towards more detailed information about them. Allusion is usually used within a given community to signpost something when referencing something you talk about a lot (e.g. 'Beckettian' instead of 'weird, abstract, made up of lots of repetitive chunks, and yet somehow really good'). Find allusions that work.
4. Make a decision. What is the brand being sold here? In this case, it's me and my employer. What am I, when reduced to a brand? I suppose this is the question of all millennial arts people. I have previously been cautioned about being too unclear about my brand. I suspect my concern in how to communicate is that it suggests I may one day have to come off my fences between comedy/opera, academic/silly, Western/Asian, and various others depending on the project.
5. Try not to panic and forget all of the above when talking tomorrow. Or nervously nibble my way through an entire packet of biscuits while preparing.
But this is a start. There is much to be done.
And so to work.