When I arrived at The Warehouse Theatre in Brussels on Friday evening I was struck by the size of the stage. It’s huge. Without any backdrop curtain the theatre is absurdly deep. And it’s always been wide, I just didn’t remember quite how wide. It’s basically a square, with the audience stretching from corner to corner on two sides of the stage.
For a solo performance, perhaps not ideal. Especially as it was the exact opposite of most places I’ve performed: the tiny stage of an intimate pub setting.
When the sprawling dimensions of The Warehouse were put in front of my face on Friday evening, and I tried to figure out how Roman Around would work, I opted to play way far downstage and ignore the oodles of space behind me. And, in confining myself to the very front of the stage, I also lost the lateral space.
As a result, the show Friday night was intimate, as I had hoped. But the staging was all awkward and wrong for the space. I have no doubt that the audience on the periphery (the bulk of them) enjoyed my devestatingly handsome profile, but they got very little direct face-time.
And in trying to transplant the small staging of the show so suited to backroom corner stages to the massive expanse of the The Warehouse, I also confused myself a couple times. Overall, I felt good about the show, but I knew that it could be improved simply by giving up my security blanket of being RIGHT THERE in front of the audience.
So Saturday night I moved away from the audience, forgoing that forced intimacy, and just used the whole damn theatre.
And it worked, I naturally spent my time using up all of the space, pacing up and down and elaborating all of the physical elements previously confined to the various upstairs pub-theatres of London, and the Little Cave of Edinburgh’s Hive. The historical re-enactments were broader and wider, and the moves between narrators physicalized with actual physical steps.
Turns out, I liked it big. And I learned that the connection with the audience doesn’t necessarily require my being three to four feet away from them at all times.
The show also works in a more theatrical setting, with the elements of the show (and the performer) having space to play around. I’m not saying it’s time to book an arena tour, only that the trip to Brussels – in addition to being a whole shed load of fun and frivolity – was also a forward leap in my understanding of the show.