Last night was M.I.T‘s debut performance of our new format Time Turner – and whoo, it was good.
The conceit of the show, dreamt up by our director, Justin Brett, is that we explore the ramifications of a choice made early on by seeing both legs of the Trousers of Time – so, think Sliding Doors, but improvised. And musical. And amazing.
The debut performance was everything you’d hope it would be – no first night blues here. The audience had a good time, the cast had a good time (at least, I had a good time, and everyone else was smiling), and everyone knew what was going on. I’m so proud and amazed that I’m involved in this cast. Come see us.
The night before, Tuesday night, was the Monkey Toast class shows – Level 3 doing their first Harolds (including my old troupemate LC!) and Level 4 doing our first Armando with monologist Briony Redman.
The Armando is an interesting format: it is in two acts, with separate casts for each act. In the first act, the monologist takes a word and tells true stories from their life evoked by that word; we then perform scenes based on that monologue. After a suitable number of scenes, the monologist monologues again, telling true stories from their life evoked by those scenes. In the second act, this happens again – but strong characters from the first half can be re-introduced if appropriate (that is to say, actors from the first cast can jump up on stage and enter a scene as one of their memorable characters discovered in the first half).
This is a much looser form than the Harold (NB. I don’t agree with the detail of that graphic) which is replete with structure that “has your back” as David Shore points out. The looseness of the form is almost as far as you can get from the protagonist-form of MIT’s Time Turner, with one important exception.
When you’re in the first cast of an Armando, in the second half you are still ‘on’ in the sense of ‘there is something I can do to serve the show’ in that you can bring back a character from the first half in the second. I had a character I thought could come back, and so for the second half tried to be attentive and ready.
At the start of MIT’s debut performance it was established that Araminta Jones, the protagonist, had been inspired her whole life by Brian Cox. I found myself thinking the same way I had thought the night before (“Can hand-puppet Lawyer help this scene?”/”Can childhood hero Brian Cox help this scene?”). It’s not exactly the same thought pattern I recognise from before Level 4 of Monkey Toast: in narrative shows I would certainly have reintroduced characters but not been actively seeking to fulfil an implicit promise of ‘Brian Cox’, and in non-narrative shows I would not have had that *explicit* urge to reintroduce characters with such clarity. Something has cha-anged within me; something is not the same.
Running the Armando as a practise format would be difficult; you need a cast of at minimum eight, preferably around twelve, and each run takes about an hour. But for that extra tool that has appeared in my field of vision, that muscle that has been stretched… “This character can come back, regardless of plot” – that is new and feels valuable.