Review – 2011 One on One Festival, Challenging Menu – Battersea Arts Centre

by

My number one arts experience of 2010 was the One on One festival at Battersea Arts Center, so when they announced they were doing it again in 2011, I was beating down the (internet) door as soon as tickets went on sale. This time rather than picking one thing you want to see and a few maybes, you picked off of menus. I avoided the one I’d done before (with Free by Ansuman Biswas) and instead picked a menu with a group that had received a lot of good press in the past.

I’ve been thinking about what to write about this event and I’ve decided that I can’t, in the middle of the run, talk too explicitly about the performances lest I ruin the element of surprise. Instead, I want to talk about how I felt during the event. This is about what I experienced internally rather than what I saw and did.

I approached the whole thing with a series of fun and (as I saw it) a lack of expectations other than that I wasn’t likely to be physically hurt. During the course of the three performances on my “meal card,” I wound up experiencing trust being built and then played with, social norms flouted and updended, and reality warped. I also lived through a performance that hit one of my biggest phobias, which was especially hair raising because I had had an hour long gap between it and my previous performance and had killed time visiting with other people (mostly total strangers) at the bar and was soused and rather more emotional than usual. Note to actress: no, I don’t usually sit on top of chests of drawers, but it seemed like the right place to be at the time.

What I found most interesting about this night was that it messed with my perception of reality. I was not alone in this; I talked to several other audience members who participated in one of the pieces I did and they all were questioning what had really happened. Had they just made a friend? Had they found a lover? Had they been betrayed? I was surprised they thought that anything had gone on besides a predetermined interaction between an audience member and an actor; the reality of what the actor said was non-existent, as they were “acting.” Those who thought they had made a connection with the person underneath the actor were mistaken; our reactions were just as predetermined as their actions.

But in the intimate setting of the One on One festival it is hard to tell the difference. This sense of confusion, of something “real” happening, was heady; but it made me wonder: was this actually unethical theater? We were paying to feel something, but I couldn’t help but feel that if the creation of an emotion or connection between an actor and an audience member was done so effectively that people, say, wanted to wait afterwards to talk to the performer to see if they “meant it,” the performance, and performer, was walking a dangerous line. Ontroerend Goed, Ansuman Biswas, you may be in dangerous territory.

As for me, well, I like dangerous territory, and I did, of course, choose the menus marked as most extreme. I’m not afraid to be personally challenged and I have a pretty clear idea of where the line is drawn between myself and a performer. I still find it really unpleasant to be in a situation where a childhood fear of mine is the center of the experience, but I was willing to let myself be kidnapped (if unsuccessful – I note someone else who was screamed as her “assailants” hooded her). I also very much liked how the organizers set this up so it wasn’t a “one”ly festival – it was, in fact, very focused on getting the audience members, who saw most things by themselves, to interact afterwards, what with the badges saying what you’d been to and then the addition of new games that try to nudge you to play with strangers. Overall, it was a great experience, one I highly recommend, though you will get out of it what you bring to it. Me, I will be bringing myself back next week – it was so good I had to try it all over again.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , ,

One Response to “Review – 2011 One on One Festival, Challenging Menu – Battersea Arts Centre”

  1. Review – Audience – Ontroerend Goed at the Soho Theater « Life in the Cheap Seats – Webcowgirl’s London theatre reviews Says:

    […] came to Ontroerend Goed’s “Audience” having seen them before at the One on One Festival at Battersea Arts Center, but knowing very […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: