Monday 29 March 2010

Ryan Stevens and the Man from Mars


And a smattering of our lovely audience. Photos by Paul Bennun.

Jimmy Stewart... strode into performance at BAC earlier this month. I'd been fearful - not just that its personal resonance wouldn't overwhelm but also quite simply that it wasn't going to be rubbish... you never know, and I've never done anything previously to put myself on the line quite like it. Or learnt an hour-long text.

But in the end, it was a quite beautiful experience to be a part of and some very lovely, generous responses from audience afterwards. Thanks to all of them who played the Planet Earth - entirely from a sitting position, but taking a very central role especially in one section.

Thanks to Tracky Crombie who wove beautiful light with love and to Chris Goode our outside eye for the afternoon, although his kind words risk this turning into even more of a love-in but it has to be said for a so-called maverick he's really very good at the nuts and bolts of staging a piece simply and saying the right things to get the most out of a nervous actor.

And thanks to Nick, the Ryan in Ryan Stevens, for being a glorious other half of sound and music. One genius moment when I took my first step into the story and a sample of treading into snow deep and crisp and even - I couldn't stop grinning because the biomechanical feedback from the sound is so strong that each step actually physically felt like I was wading through snow.

Here are some words from Jimmy Stewart... which give some of its rather peculiar character. The hugging machine actually exists in the house of Temple Grandin, although I reimagined and let it out for a run inspired by seeing massage machines in a motorway service station. You'll have to hear Nick's extraordinary soundscape in your head as you read it.

You can usually find a hugging machine in a boat-train terminal. There'll be a line of them between the amusement arcade and the branch of Starbucks next to Departures. A hugging machine looks like a big comfy chair, cushioned as soft as a rabbit's cheek. You curl up inside it. Sometimes there's a frame in your eyeline to accommodate a photograph you may be carrying of a loved one. You place a coin in the slot underneath your right hand. Most hugging machines take Euros nowadays. Its motors hum and it grasps you first by your shoulders, then wraps itself entirely about you. Its hug is neither gentle like a grandmother nor tight like a grieving bear. The amplitude of hug is tuned to that which happens between humans who are lovers of at least three years' standing who are separating for a week or two but no doubt they'll see each other again soon. This is the most profitable hug in a marketplace of disconsolate commuters.

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