TROJANS by Team MESS, courtesy of the Curators Groundwork (Amelia Wallin & Maria White) for the Tiny Stadiums Festival, 2014.
Hi! Team MESS is the collaborative output of a group of young-ish artists. As a collective we play with conventions, rituals and spectacles of popular culture and everyday life to stage theatre events that close the distance between the work and the viewer and open up a shared space of experience, exchange and narrative possibility. ... Each project (over the past six years) is made by revelling in a process of trying, failing, failing again, failing better...This work is based on Team MESS' readings around Mexican soap operas that are made so tightly, that the actors perform for camera, and live broadcast, with a radio mic in their ears, repeating lines given to them from off-screen, and interpreting any other instruction (presumably stuff like, Now Dance). Team MESS have built a 'green-screen box' with a bar and some stools. Titles and commercials have been pre-recorded, and are edited into the breaks (Technical Director, Rob Hughes) that occur during the shoot in front of the live audience - us - we being rallied by two 'fluffers' (Natalie Randall and Malcolm Whitaker) to keep us attentive. Four actors ("Brett Johnson and a cast of thousands 'on call' ") enact the text written, on the night I attended, by Annaliese Constable, (each night a different writer), and we can witness the work, both, live onstage, and on the CGI-affected image on hanging monitors.
The technical stuff is, relatively, well prepared - although, they were short a body mic, and we had the painful experience of having actors attempting to pass the mic and battery - the full caboodle of equipment - from one to the other, with the result that the speaker often had just handed the mic away, and got it back as the other actor required it!!!!! If this was an intentional joke (it didn't appear to be), it was NOT funny, just tiresome.
The live stuff was a TOTAL M-E-S-S!!!! Firstly, the script was banal. It was, truly, TERRIBLE. Secondarily, the actors had no skills or feel for the 'idea' and ought to! Should - should - at least know what the task they are about to present is and, then, can meet the basic technical needs of that task - you know, like, to be able to speak, like, clearly, using the body mic, like!. But, then, I am not in 'The Theatre of Failure' philosophic embrace - if, there is, Heaven, help us, such a thing in the ambiances of our contemporary theories of creative states. I don't appreciate the need to "fail, fail again, fail better." "Failing Gloriously", is more my mantra - and failing not because of lack of skill or preparation, but, because of the risks inherent in the given task/form.
This was the first night, and BOY! did they, as the above introduction suggests, fail. The "revelling", in this project's case, looked strained. Let's hope they are failing better each time they do it - they've got five go's at it. I had, and do not have, any inclination to see if that is so. This is recommended only to friends and, maybe, warned family. I encourage glorious failure, but this, unfortunately, was not that kind of failure.
In the program notes Team MESS tell us:
A colleague recently described us as being "allergic to content", and maybe that is true. At the time of writing this, two days before opening, we don't even have a show. We look forward to what happens between this projected idea and its realisation, and hope you enjoy how it unfolds.Well, on opening night, two days later, their allergy to "content" was more than self-evident, and they still did not have a show, and I for one could only, politely, watch this 'catastrophe' unfold. I felt like a regular Trojan. In my Brewers Dictionary of PHRASE AND FABLE:
He is a regular TROJAN: A fine fellow, with courage and spirit, who works very hard, usually at some uncongenial task, indeed, doing more than was expected of him.In this event - it was the audience who were cast as the TROJANS of Team Mess' project.
This was the first event of this year's TIDY STADIUM Festival - I hope it has not set the benchmark for the coming two weeks.