Fact & Fiction: Collaborative Interpretation

How to start ? How to engage the visitor ?

- start one to one and then get more people involved. We use entrees; Asides; Complaints; Gossip; insider information;
- Don’t take a group off the route it is already on, unless you think they’ll like that.
- Assume they know you or that the conversation is underway
- Talk about what they are thinking/preoccupied with (guess)
- Gossip with individual visitors about the behaviour of the others
- Don’t encourage the audience to pretend
- snap out of interactions when you get stuck
- give the impression you are on your way, and interrupting your journey, see if the visitors ask for more time
- Try to work out their level of seriousness versus playfulness.
- No need to say hello to every one – you have a job to do.
- there is a honeymoon period

- The visitor will be asking ‘who are you supposed to be ?’ meaning how should I address you, what information have you got to share ?

a descriptive conversation can be intensified by degrading or mocking the listener, or the institution, to reveal a frustration, to provide some relief from the conservation work of The National Trust etc – e.g. playing with the “PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH" sign [Ted tells us that people sometimes pick up the labels and feel the surface that they should not touch – which is so much like a forgetful clown, or curious child] The aim is to expose the ways we instinctively adapt to the constraints and even ideology of the institution.

- The visitors and guides provide the content for your dialogue - you do not have to invent, or prove yourself to be clever.
- avoid collisions in positioning the guide's groups of visitors and your 'group'
- practice awareness of peripheral audiences (eavesdroppers, observers etc)
- allow the guides to do their job
- Work with young guides will be different. Play against their appearance: an innocent mini-volunteer could be inverted into a ‘troublemaker’ or art thief.
- Don’t interrupt conversations the guide is already having
- Avoid guides who don't like the work – don’t try to win them over. Listen to their complaints.
- Reference the guide within your "world", ie the Victorian world – but not as a servant

- the work is for the visitor not the guide
- Demand a focussed response: don’t patronize the visitors; don't let glib or superficial statements hang in the air.
- Call them servants, or slovenly - criticise them in a gentle tone – explore your character's ambivalence e.g.demand the visitor keeps off the stairs
- Discover the detail of the house fabric with the audience - the ceiling especially has a trompe l’oeil – a site which requires discovery each time.
- Take control of interactions, but listen to the visitor.
- Are you becoming too serious ?

- Don’t force information/quizzing on a child
- Be frank, direct, honest.
- Don’t talk down to children. Let them lead where possible but you are not just there to entertain them. Different ages have different responses and preoccupations of course.

Other actors
- Use the fact that other actors are around to dvelop the narrative : ‘Have you seen the butler (ie do you know what I think of him ?)’ (etc) or 'please pass a note to the scullery maid'.
- Try silent communication e.g. the butler appeared in the grass at the orangery, taking water – think of dejeuner sur l’herbe - with servants hovering and cakes- think of Proust.
- Select a favourite moment and be prepared to deliberately repeat and condense it during one period of encounters together.

Digressions & Difficult questions from visitors:
‘what do you do the other days of the week ?’
‘do you enjoy this ?’
‘are you employed by the national trust ?’

if you have established your character’s world you can talk about the theatre company and admit to being a thespian, but slowly make it clear this new 'openness is is still time-specific" you were giving lectures, readings, or ridiculous Victorian music hall turns
Invert the entire fantasy – for example, you are an actor who wants to be in pride & prejudice, and this is beneath you etc

How to deflate aggression ?
Is interpretation a kind of bullying ? Paranoia: its like doing stand up and dying – or being heckled. The stern face of someone who does not want to play is like a magnet. You are drawn to it as if you think you can crack it or melt it. Without this participant the game does not have license and will collapse. You have to concentrate on the visitor and their experience but you cannot ignore the critical figure who refuses to believe in your stories.

how to end
(think of film cuts)
Ways Out - Reversals of logic or expectation, a sudden absurd ending, a turnaround quip, revelations about 'real' self as an ctor

Copyright, Triangle 2007