Sam Freeman

Storytelling | Theatre | Arts Marketing

Rehearsing – This time less pretentious…

For those of you who are a regular reader of my blog, or have stumbled over the last couple of blog posts you’ll have noticed, when compared to earlier works of occasional light hearted genius, that the mood and tone has taken an excessively artistic and pretentious edge of late. I was questioned about my use of the word, ‘a breathing point’, in particular.

The problem with phrases like ‘breathing point’ is they can seem ludicrous, why would an audience need a breathing point? Why would they need to ‘collect themselves’? It’s only theatre! Can people not deal with the intensity of a play about serious issues without a time out?

The thing is. And here is  the thing. They are essential, every great play, piece of music, film or television programme needs those breaks before moments of emphasis, they enhance the power of what is to be said, can implicitly plant ideas to be revealed explicitly later on, they enhance the flavour, the strength, the vigour and the vibrancy of what is to come next. These breaks can allow summaries of ideas, convey the humanity of a character and create depth making them seem more three dimensional and real. They allow changes of tone to feel measured and allow designers opportunity to examine where they are currently in a piece to ensure that their work following that moment supports the narrative arc of the piece. They are, and sorry to repeat myself, essential.

So then what’s the problem. Is it perhaps that it is talked about not in the context of the plot or the characters but instead the effect on the audience. That’s a bit more of a personal one i think. I’ve always cared, perhaps wrongly, more about the audience experience than the plot or characters. They should all fit hand in hand, and largely they do, but my point of reference for sorting problems, finding solutions, making directorial decisions is first and foremost what will help the audience understand and enjoy the show more? Could be the right method, could be utterly wrong, either way it’s subjective.

So I think the phrase is right, the approach is personal and subjective, so then it must be my personal use of the words. Perhaps it is the idea of pretention on my part:

“Attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc., than is actually possessed.”

So was I being pretentious? I’m not sure, I hope not. What I hope is that I was trying to raise my own bar by talking about the parts of a show that interest me more, which in a personal blog, let’s be honest, it’s all about me, is okay. What I hope is that it’s okay to want to be better that I am, that it’s okay to write things like that, exploring ideas about structure before the horrific pictures of bed sores on google, maybe so people challenge it and I can look at the ideas more in another blog post written the following evening. Pretension is where we try to impress by effecting greater importance to what is possessed. What if the importance we suggest is equal to the possession and that to impress is a mechanism for improving yourself, moving on, up and beyond what you’ve done in the past?