Off to the Lyric this evening to see Improbable Theatre's Life Game show. It's a format borrowed from Keith Johnstone's Theatre Sports where a member of the audience is interviewed and a team of improvisers restage scenes from their life. At its best its rip roaring funny, bringing into focus a quirky mixture of poignant moments and farce - I guess the key ingredients in any life.
Tonight's show was hard work, however. Brenda, the subject, was fairly uncomfortable about the public nature of the interview and not very keen to reveal much information about her past. For a while it was a fascinating, if occasionally squirmy, clash between theatre practitioners, confident, used and perhaps even compelled to tell stories and a modest woman in her fifties neither seeking nor impressed by the limelight. Despite encouragement Brenda seemed intimidated and knocked most questions back with yes or no answers.
Slowly, subtly the actors won her confidence and softly began to find some very moving opportunities to celebrate Brenda's life. A simple scene of Brenda looking into the eyes of her first daughter and telling her all the things she hoped she would become, a bicycle ride to Heysham beach with her future husband and a car journey to France with the whole family singing Abba songs to pass the time, began to diffuse the threat of ridicule. It the end I think she was very moved by the tribute the show paid her.
So much work in the theatre now relies on interview, personal research and the retelling of anecdote. More than anything else this kind of work reveals why the art form must be honourable, social and collaborative. Theatre above all else nurtures, shares and makes significant the magical moments of seemingly impossible happiness than run throughout each of our lives. Moments that often we're too caught up in to understand at the time.