Lines And Ladders is a micro-audience performance. I came across this term when producing The Museum Full Of Things for the second Wrought Festival in 2016. Wrought had started as a festival of of 1:1 performance in 2014, but broadened its scope a little in its second incarnation. 1:1 performance is literally one audience member and one performer. Micro-audience allows for a little more flexibility.
My pieces for Wrought expanded with this definition. The first piece Just Playing! was a 1:1 experience that invited the audience to make time to play. Audiences pre-booked as part of a menu of performances offered.
The Museum Full Of Things was an imagined journey around collections of exhibits gathered from my memory and could be experienced by one person or more. It was something people could drop into in between other performances. I don’t recall ever taking more than 3 people on a tour around the museum at any one time.
I like the playful potential of micro-audience work and I know that audiences can be apprehensive about participatory work – I often am myself – so I try to make sure that they feel looked after and secure in their role as audience-participants.
Last weekend I visited 133 Sidney Grove in Newcastle. A student house transformed into Bobby Baker’s Great & Tiny War. This is micro-audience work; a guided tour reflecting on the impact of conflict through art spaces tinged with domesticity. I experienced the piece with two other audience members and two hosts. The hosts put us at ease. They explain the parameters of the performance and are on hand to answer questions throughout. Baker is the master in looking after her audience, even when physically absent. Throughout the piece she is a ghostly presence, her movement through the building is audible and chattily she observes details that we can reach and touch. The work resonates with echoes from her back catalogue, but is something altogether new. The familiarity of the space, the stories, the voice, the images and the work are disrupted throughout. Bobby Baker’s Great & Tiny War picks at the complexity of wartime experiences in a way that makes you think, but does not pick on you as an audience member. I’m trying very hard not to say too much as the work has another month to run and is well worth a visit if you can! There is a family history connection in the piece too – so I am certain I will be writing more about it sometime.
I hope to be able to adopt some of Baker’s care for the audience in my own micro-audience work. In Lines And Ladders the familiarity of the board game provides a frame for telling personal spaces in public spaces. As with both The Museum Full Of Things and Just Playing!, there is an unofficial audience of people around. Surprisingly, those who have played Lines And Ladders suggest this encourages them to be more intimate rather than less and I am comforted by the fact that most people who have played the game comment on how they enjoyed playing afterwards.
Photograph from Bobby Baker’s Great + Tiny War