I made a very conscious decision when planning Lines And Ladders not to record the games. Live performance is something different when it is recorded.
This is an improvised performance in reaction to the dice throws. People – myself included – may behave differently when the camera is on them. Feedback has suggested that when people are affected by the public space, it is because it feels more relaxed. A recording device might change this.
Nevertheless, I reach the end of each game and scribble notes, trying to remember who said what and what even happened in the game, I have been regretting this decision. There are so many riches in the stories that are shared. At the end of each game, people often want to talk and as I do this I feel the game play slipping away from me, as I am treated to yet more complex and intimate tales. A fascinating and relevant detail resurfaces in my brain and I struggle to recall who said it, having not included it in my notes at the time. The game is complicated, lines are followed up and down, stories emerge in an order that might never have happened otherwise. How did I hope to keep track of this when playing the game?
I needed to step back.
To think again.
To remind myself – as I tell participants at the start – I am not a historian. This is not historical research. This is performance research, I am researching ways of performing family histories, not ways of recording them. The game is a way of providing an opportunity for oral storytelling. A pop-up performance that happens in this moment and can be repeated by participants with their own version of the game.
Recording this performance would change not only the behaviour of the participants, it would change the essence of the game. Recording would place the emphasis on the historical evidence, rather than the performance experience. Sometimes, I think I have been placing too much emphasis in my note taking on remembering others’ histories. Today is my last full day in Edinburgh, I am heading back to the Little Shop of Memory in Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre, and as I make my notes, I will be keeping in mind that although the stories are important, the research is performance.