Written in our workshop in Devon on 21st of January 2012, with a cultured cup of Lapsang Souchong…

It is a month since the shadow-puppets of The Clockwork Moth were featured in the show “We Can Stay All Day” in a pre-Christmas Ausform at The Cube. The experience was fulfilling for us as artists on many levels; perhaps most valuably, Vicky and I remembered how fun and rewarding it is to produce smaller experimental works relatively quickly. We’ve gotten used to thinking of performances on a fairly epic scale; the problem with this is that epic projects give a kind of unlimited excuse for ‘taking your time to get it right’. Since Ausform, we are thinking much more of what we can do ‘in the meantime,’ and our conclusion is ‘plenty.’

Ausform is a special event which draws upon the sprightly creative spirit of Bristol – a box of surprises for an open and appreciative audience. It is a remarkable feature that one rarely thinks about when they view a show, that audiences can be very, very different depending on where you go and for what reason. Another thing that spectators are mostly unaware of is that they may well have a strong effect on performers. In the case of shadow-puppetry, one is often hidden behind a screen, and so the only real way to recognise audience response is to hear it. Ironically, the most frightening scenario is one where an audience is paying deep and undivided attention – a contemplative, analytical frame-of-mind is often accompanied by a great dose of silence. In such cases, it is easy for the performer to imagine that they have made a grave mistake: every cough is one of stifled disgust, every scrape of a chair-leg is someone leaving the room contemptuously. Its always a relief to find that people are just really interested, in the kind of way you might be when looking at the moon through a telescope. But in Bristol, this interest manifested itself in the way we enjoy best: good, hearty, belly-laughs.

Coming from Devon, we were  also given the chance to try out some ideas that we had been toying with for some time regarding the portability of our work – a cardboard set which can be set up live on an empty stage within forty seconds, a system of using complicated puppet/scenery combinations operated by only two people. These are the kinds of things that could turn into serious risks if invested for the first time in a grand touring production. Ausform provided a safe opportunity to see if these things were possible for us – such opportunities are rare. Now we have something which is easily made ready for platforms and festivals – that’s something we didn’t have before (our previous show was such a difficult one to transport that it may well never see the light of day again!).

The warmth of the audiences reactions were immediately soothing, and we felt quite at home within a few seconds. The tension of performing dropped right away and we found ourselves laughing along with our spectators. This had a circular effect as it turned out: several people commented on how they enjoyed seeing how much fun we were having (we were not, in this show, completely concealed by screens). For those who attended – thank you for your kind responses – you made our night.

But thank you most of all to the organisers for the chance to take part – it means a great deal to any artist to be asked to create, and we were proud to make a connection between The Clockwork Moth and Ausform, who by now have a fantastic history of hugely inspiring and talented performers.


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