A Game of You
Ontroerend Goed @ State Theatre Company Rehearsal Room
2:00pm, Tue 12 Mar 2013
After the incredible experiences of the previous Ontroerend Goed productions (The Smile Off Your Face and Internal), I again resolved to approach this production with absolutely no knowledge of its content. And that seems to be the approach of all the other punters in my session; as they gathered in the Playhouse foyer, we all start excitedly discussing the encounters of the previous sessions (lots of smiles and knowledgable nods when I explained my Internal experience), but everyone veered away from any kind of speculation about A Game Of You.
Slowly, one by one, we’re led downstairs to the Rehearsal Room. When I get down there, I note the reconfiguration of the space; it now feels very tight, and I’m led through curtained corridors and paths and deposited on a seat in a small room. There’s a mirror in front of me, some trinkets on a shelf beneath the mirror, an empty seat to my right. I hate mirrors – I try to not watch myself. Instead, I pick up a notebook off the shelf, flick through the pages; two-thirds of the way through the book, I feel compelled to write a message. I have no idea what I wrote: something pithy, I suspect.
Someone comes and sits next to me. One of the Ontroerend Goed actors, I guess. We chat – nervously at first, then I warm up and the conversation is lively. Eventually, a klaxon sounds, and he leads me out of the small room into another curtained corridor; he leaves, I wait a moment, and I’m soon joined by another performer.
Again, we start talking – frosty, then friendly – and, as he guides me through the maze of corridors and rooms, a new element is introduced: we’re looking at another audience member. Through one-way mirrors, or cameras and video screens, we see another Goed-ian and the person behind me in the queue. And I see her being asked the same questions I’d been asked in conversation, and I realised that the stilted starts of those conversations were me acclimatising to the framework of the performance…
…it’s a set-up. We are the performers; Ontroerend Goed are the stage managers.
But there’s something deliciously… well, gossipy about the conversation that I’m having with my Guide now. He starts asking me about the woman I see before me: Who is she? What’s her name? What does she do? Is she in a relationship? The questions gradually get a little more pointed, a little more awkward…
And I engage in that conversation freely; I enjoy the conjecture. And it never occurs to me that some other person in the “audience” is going to be judging me in the same way: the conversation just feels natural.
Another bell sounds: my Guide waits for me to finish my rambling answer, then points me in the direction of another room. I enter it, and there – behind a wall of monitors showing footage from every room that I’d just walked through – sat Aurélie, my “date” from Internal. She quietly beckons me to sit next to her, and then returns to watching the screens intently; I see other people guided through the experience. It’s a heady mix of voyeurism and intrigue – I felt like I’d analysed one person, and now I wanted to analyse them all. Suddenly Aurélie hands me a CD, and I’m led out of the room and upstairs to the foyer. The Game is over, and I’m left feeling… well, a little curious. A little bewildered. And, surprisingly, a little narcissistic… but I didn’t know why.
It only dawned on me, as I walked home, that there was probably someone else in the “audience” that had been asked all the same questions about me; I started wondering what they’d said. How they had imagined my life. Insecurity set in.
And then I started wondering what was on the CD.
Suddenly, I couldn’t get home quick enough. I dropped the CD in my computer: a single file. Audio.
It was someone else’s reading of me. [77.6MB]
And, despite the fact that a lot of what was postulated about me was way off the mark, I grinned from ear to ear whilst listening to it… multiple times.
I thought to myself “wow – this show just keeps on giving.” Even thirty minutes, an hour, two hours after the event, I’m still in those red rooms, watching and being watched; naked, prone, exposed, and loving it. And that’s a pretty amazing take-away from a performance.