Interesting, isn't it... Why I like a piece of theatre and you don't? Or I like a piece of dance and you don't? The Edinburgh Fringe is a melting pot of weird, wonderful and diverse theatre. There is good, bad and just plain untrained. But once you arrive at a certain standard... that's when things get muddy. That's when things get into opinion, personality, or perhaps just the mood you're in.
For me, it comes down to vulnerability. If I can see the humanity in a performer, something of their real selves, or simply the raw spine of their inhabited character. That's what I like. For others, its technical prowess that floats their boat... or puns.
I recommended a piece to friends. I saw a stylistic similarity to their work. But essentially I had recommended that they see an impersonation of the style in which they work. They hated it. They appreciated the honed skill of the performance, but couldn't find idiosyncrasy of character, or the vulnerability they cultivate in their own work. In hindsight I wondered why I liked the piece myself. I recognised that I liked the beauty, the imagery, the skill. I missed structure, character analysis and definitely vulnerability. But over all I enjoyed it a great deal on its merits whilst ignoring the flaws. (Except a moment where the female body was brutalised without subversion, I just think we have seen that enough in contemporary dance now to last a lifetime.) The dancer in me loved it, the writer me did not. Beyond that, I also had decided upon sitting down to watch that particular piece, that I would like it. I got on board. Getting on board is a decision, but not one we often make consiously.
In another show, I spent the first 5 minutes afraid I was going to hate it. The exaggerated character before me lacked vulnerability. I liked her a lot more later when her accent started to slip and I heard her real voice through the speakers. I am alot more interested in REAL. But, I saw why she was playing it this way and appreciated the writing. I got on board with it.
We never sit down at the theatre without our predujice, without our privelage or our baggage. I sit down to watch technically skilled dancers willing them to be boring, so that I can congratulate myself for being idiosyncratic and human, as a posed to the robotic yet elegant perfection I had strived toward for years, and have now rejected in favour of enjoying my life.
Dancers coming to see Herstory invariably comment on how amazing my spoken word is- because they came expecting dance and probably were a bit underwhelmed by the physical complexity and virtuosity on display, but impressed that I could speak with tonal variation and emotional range- because that was not their training (or mine.) Actors, theatre people and also non performers tend to comment on the dance. How artiulate it is- or ask how I managed to come up with the moves... I suppose we are all fascinated by what we do not understand and impressed by what we cannot acheive ourselves. But we like to see enough of ourselves in something in order to connect. A delicate balance to strike indeed...