Thursday, July 21, 2005

Pan Pan's One(ce again)

Don’t you love it when a plan comes together? Two years ago, sitting alone in a hotel in Frankfurt, Gavin Quinn of Pan Pan theatre first had the germ of idea for a show performed by one actor to an audience of one.

Now – after visiting 100 actors in their homes, interviewing and filming them, creating a film and a book from the visits – a live show finally hits the stage.

Things have been ramped up considerably from the initial thought. Now there are one hundred of these little one-on-one performances happening simultaneously, each taking place in one room of a massive 100-room set.

The beautiful set features a long, orange corridor, lined with translucent, softly-glowing doors. Behind each numbered door, it’s possible to make out a dark shape that must be a person. But not just any person: an actor. Fresh faces or crusty stalwarts, they all sit, waiting to explain why they entered this strange profession.

All they need now is someone to listen. Luckily enough, there are 100 people ready to do just that. Here's what happened inside one cell...

Room Four
“How much interaction would you like?” I ask Clare Barrett, the nice woman from Galway who is telling me about her childhood, her former career as a nurse and the momentous decision to become an actor. “Not much,” she smiles. So, I lean back on the couch and try to remember if I’ve seen her in anything.

But the tone of our encounter is not completely conducive to relaxing. Not quite performance, not quite heart-to-heart chat, it reminds me of telesales, or a job interview. “You’ve got the job,” I say, applauding as she finishes. Now her smile contains a wisp of irritation.

She wants to do her an audition piece, something by Pinter. But when she starts pretending to be someone else, I become distinctly uneasy. Acting to just one person is a bit too close to lying.

Clare puts on some soothing music and tells me to look at a yellow light. I try to be soothed, but panic takes me. Clare keeps saying “close your eyes when you feel relaxed”. I feel like I will never be truly relaxed again. Ever.

Afterwards, as she walks me out to a de-briefing session with all the other actors and their guests, she touches me on the back once or twice more than I really want. (I really want to be touched on the back zero times.) I have to resist looking around each time she does it.

It turns out I have seen something she was in: that Rudolph children’s play that Annie Ryan directed at The Ark. Clare noticed at the time, she says as I sip my beer, that I didn’t seem very comfy in the tiny seats at The Ark. Which was also true.


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