The performance. Extracting the details taken from
The play I went to see was “Jumping on My shadow” written by Peter Rumney and directed by Rosamunde Hutt. It was performed at the Djanogly theatre, Nottingham Lakeside Arts Centre on Saturday 23rd of September 2017. In Susan Bennett’s “Theatre and Audiences”, she states that how an audience member will receive a performance is influenced by an ‘outer’ cultural frame, as well as those elements of the inner frame of the performance (theatrical signs such as lighting, sound, set design, stage configuration, costume, kinesics, proxemics, vocal tone.) I felt that my “Horizon of expectations” were affected by an ‘outer’ cultural frame as well as those elements of the inner frame of the performance. “Place” also contributed to my perception of the performance. This is in accordance with Marvin Carlson’s theory in “Places of Performance.” This essay will attempt to see to what extent “Place” as well as ‘Outer’ and ‘Inner’ cultural frames affect the expectations of, and what significance they have, on the audience member.There was a poster displayed in the lobby of the theatre and a flyer of that poster handed out around Nottingham University Campus prior to the performance. Extracting the details taken from the flyer, gave us (the audience) information on what could be expected from the performance, which could have affected our “Horizon of Expectation.” On the flyer there was a picture of a young boy with a light shining on him, which created a large shadow projected onto a wall. The boy in question looks under the age of ten, which suggests a play about (or affecting) youth. The fact that the shadow is larger than him could foreshadow the boy’s future when he gets older. The play is being performed on the University Campus, and as such the play will most likely be sold to an educated, yet still fairly young demographic. As well as this, younger school children were invited to the event, and as such, the “place” (in reference to the actual location of the performance) affected the general age group of the audience. This would then affect the general reaction to the play, as well as the chance of some younger members not being able to fully understand it due to perhaps complex themes that they haven’t been exposed to as of yet. Regarding the text underneath the photo of the boy on the flyer, the words “Refuge” and “Asylum” are placed in bold text, highlighting the contemporary refugee crisis, influencing the outer cultural frame of the audience member, preparing them for the performance. “Who we think we are” is also highlighted in bold, this implies doubt in our self knowledge, leading an audience to expect a thought provoking performance, but does not belittle them using the inclusive “we”. These points are exaggerated in their importance due to “place,” (as in where the Theatre is located) as England as a whole is affected by the refugee crisis. Countries far from Europe might not understand the prominence of the theme of refuge, and as such if the play was performed in those countries, the poignancy of the socio-political message would be weakened. The purpose of this effect serves to both attract people concerned with contemporary issues, as well as to help educate those with less knowledge or those with inability to empathise with the refugee situation.On entering the performance space, the audience were placed in a darkly lit room. Orange profile spots were used with haze machines to create beams of light that the audience passed through as they entered. The beams came from lights mounted on the walls at diagonal angles creating a disconcerting sense of confusion due to mixture of low light levels and the swirling haze in the light beams. This effect, created from the place of performance, relates back to the initial expectation created by the flyer that the play will be a “ghost story” as the haze creates an aura of mystery similar to that of a haunted house or dungeon. There were two strips of white floor lights on either side of the stage, to layer the ethereal quality to the performance as well as highlighting the actors faces. However, the stage area in between the seating was brightly lit, using the lights within the theatre to make clear where the focus of the place would be. The preconceptions the audience might have towards a mystery or ghost story will affect the horizons they will have about the performance, maybe putting them in a particular frame of mind that naturally expects, due to cultural traditional norms, to take the play seriously and be expectant of a potentially frightening performance. Whereas the play is an uplifting experience urging the viewer to see the plight of the refugees and humanize them in an empathetic and relatable fashion, challenging the “outer” and “inner” cultural frames, misleading the audience initially to make an overarching point.The seat design used the concept of “place” to highlight the social expectation placed upon the audience by using traverse seating. This meant the audience would be able to see each other’s reactions to the performance as the play progressed. The audience would possibly react more than normal to fulfill the ideological expectations of how we should view the issues portrayed, out of social courtesy and collective thinking. This reinforces the idea of spectators becoming a member of an already constituted interpretive community. Althusser’s concept of “ideological state apparatuses” comes into use here, specifically those relating to media and politics, as these ideologies create society’s main preconceptions of refugees. Depending on the media outlet of course, one may have preconceived notions of refugees and this play chose to challenge those expectations through its writing, story and performance.The cast choices were very diverse. With different parts being played by a variety of actors from different ethnic backgrounds, age, gender and physicality. A decision taken by the director to perhaps challenge our expectations of what a refugee is. Our preconceptions are altered by outer cultural horizons and influenced by media in different formats, so the director would be wanting to change our preconceptions and outer so the next time we view a play or performance we have a different horizon of expectation, and hopefully if our horizon of expectation will be different for a performance, then it may be different for a socio-political situation once reconsidered.The costume choices reflected the timeline differences and the change in styles when in a position of poverty and refuge through the years, channeling different periods in time of the worlds recent past. Whilst set in a fictional city, it drew from our current realities themes and issues from the past and present day, if an effort to try and relate to the audience primarily of a younger demographic thus emphasizing that the issue of refuge is still ongoing and whilst the type of clothing and ethnicity has changed the problem still persists.We can also view the place in syntagmatic terms: It is an in-theatre building, meaning that the specific location of the theatre itself isn’t as necessary to complete the performance intentions as, for example, a piece set in a specific location in order to tell a story that relates to that place. The aspect that another location could easily be used is further emphasized by the inner frame as the setting is specifically made ambiguous by being named “the city of bread” – the fact that it could be any city means it could be every city, a deliberate effort of the writer to be more inclusive of multiple audiences in various places, so the issue raised will be able to resonate with a larger demographic. A line where one of the main characters exclaims that “I am boy from nowhere.” emphasises this point, his location is obscure, so that his origin is every origin, thus further increasing our emotional connection towards the performance.The two sides of the set presented the spaces of a wall and a gate respectively, both symbols of restrictive barriers that deny entrance and prevent aid to the refugeesIn terms of the performance as paradigmatic, if the element of “place” was changed to no longer be ambiguous, and was no longer directly relatable to the audience (perhaps setting it in London and showing it to a Nottingham audience), the audience are less likely to feel the need to become involved in the issue, and are less emotionally invested in the performance thus instead of finishing the play with desire to help the refugees, they may see it more as an alien issue that doesn’t affect Nottingham but London. Alternatively, if the city was said to be Nottingham, for a Nottingham audience they may feel even more emotionally invested and would maybe go out of their way to become involved in the issue. However, this would limit the performance to be viably performed in one single city.Semiotically, there were some clear icons used in the performance, for example a table was used as a table and nothing else other than its function, and a film projection was played over the performance interspersed between acts and at specific moments throughout the play, which showed images of planes and trains, references to travel and large crowds, all in keeping with the theme of refuge. A thin layer of fog was produced from the smoke machine at the start of the performance, as a stylistic motif however other indexes and symbols were used in the performance that added a layer of depth to the story. For example, the bread that was made during the performance was said to be made of the stories of the past (once more relating to the ghost story element) thus the bread becomes a symbol of the stories of past refugees who succeed in entering the city of bread. The actual process of making bread was shown when characters kneaded dough onstage, this being a signifier (pointing to the actual process of making these stories that becomes the symbol of the bread) of the hard work refugees put into acclimatization and acceptance from the locals of cities, places and countries that they are foreign to.The table begins to develop a connotative meaning as it is used across multiple timelines of narrative between the characters, as they work in the bakery together kneading the same dough through generations in different time narratives, (the play shifts between time and even combines two points in time together) and as such the table exists as the base for the creation and carrying on the stories of the refugees.In conclusion, the performance used the Traditional Horizon of Expectations surrounding ghost stories and refugees to mislead the audience to fall back on preconceived cultural notions to influence their Horizon of Expectation. However, whilst using these elements to convey a story, the writer and subsequent director wanted to challenge our outer cultural frame through using the inner cultural frame of the performance itself showing the refugees in a positive light and making the audience empathetic towards their suffering, journey and story.