Thursday, July 22, 2010

Reflections on the One on One Festival

To keep some connection with the arts world, I have been volunteering at the One on One Festival at the Battersea Arts Centre.

I was considering starting this post:

"Theatre doesn't have to take place on a stage with a curtain and the audience sat neatly in rows"

but equally valid would have been:

I arrived for my shift to be greeted with the question "Have you ever seen a grown man naked?"

One on One was a festival of theatre at the experimental end of the scale. Around the venue, there were over 30 different shows, usually with just one performer, which audience members experienced on their own. It involved facing fears, darkness and yes, some nudity, but there were also experiences of joy, beauty and comedy.

I experienced the festival first as a volunteer steward, which meant that I saw audience reactions without actually seeing the performances themselves. It was fascinating to see how people reacted so differently to the same piece.

On the final day, I went along as an audience member, although I think my journey was a tame one (clothes were all kept on) but I saw some wonderful acts. I had my own private concert in Folk in a Box, with the musician Clem Leek, who specialises in modern classical ambient music, a genre I was previously unaware of, but found rather lovely. I experienced a haunting acoustic performances by Sarah Johns in which we both stood in front of a mirror by candlelight. I was treated for Existential Angst in the piece Nurse Knows Best, which was a lot of fun. Other bits I was less keen on and on the whole I decided I had enjoyed watching others' reactions more than taking part myself, which is interesting in itself.

I suspect it may be the sort of thing that people who think the arts shouldn't receive any public funding would hold up as an example, but for those that attended the festival seemed to be a success and it was certainly different from anything else I've ever experienced.

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