Feedback from Jens Binder, lecturer in Psychology at Nottingham Trent University:
I was unsure whether you memorised the text or the routine of looking at the index cards. I liked the way they were all the same format, the same colour, the same size. There is something relentless about it. The cards are merciless units to drive you forward through the performance. There is no loss of control though. I wonder if you need to make a decision about handing over responsibility. How could you cut the cards? Maybe someone drops them and say ‘I’m not reading this any more’. How could there be more resistance to the rules?
This could be one of the tools you use to rebel. How could the performers make a decision not to proceed? There is a lot of turn-taking, the way cards are used. The way you get the cards and how that delays dialogue. Because it is a dialogue between you even though it is directed at the audience. Sometimes it is in the third person or you are describing in first person what the other person is doing. This is part of the argument between you. The performance is going round in circles. There are different time levels, you are talking about 3 months before you made it and 3 years after you start to tour it all in the same show.
At one point Michael starts reading out a text written three months ago. It dissolves all points in time. It reminded me of Slaughterhouse Five. How it does not subscribe to one particular timeflow. Existence = non-existence. This contributes to the static picture of what’s going on. You are prisoners and there is no progression towards the real end of the show. Or the exit. The bear goes nowhere, literally and metaphorically, you are going round in circles.
What would happen if the bear caught you before you exited and what happened offstage had to happen onstage? We are realising what a miserable condition you are in and watching you try to find ways to accept it. The autonomy of the individual where you thing your motives come from. When a father figure becomes overpowering. You know that you don’t want it but you can’t shake it off. It remains a bit unclear if Michael is a father figure to Ollie or not.
It sounds like Michael is Ollie’s entry into the business. When we think of patricide we think of autonomy, freedom, liberty, feeling dominated, suppressed. You want to be masters of your own actions but you fail. It’s not clear to what degree Ollie comes out of this on a positive or negative note. Open to me whether Ollie has been moulded in the same way. Ollie has overcome Michael and is free to do things differently. The pattern of dominance has changed. Who was the bear? Who was shot? Circularity. You have been phased out.
Not too long before the final scene you get a moment of resolution. The rest is just another discharge of surplus energy. I got the distinct feeling that I was witnessing a journey. It did have a beginning. It did have an end. That structure was there for me. These elements create their own dynamic and the whole thing morphs from state to another to reach a state of equilibrium. As it was at the beginning but different somehow. The relationship is the structure.
If it was just that it would be a one act piece but that is not what it is. There is too much going on around the relationship. Maybe it creates too much expectation. Standard narrative impossible. Impossible to bring it to an end because too many things have started. Too many beginnings to have an end. Resignation and despair – it doesn’t seem possible to bring this to an end. Maybe more awareness of it could remove a sense of helplessness.
How can we end it? How can we make it better? When you say ‘We’ve made a bit of a mess’ maybe it’s not that messy at all. It’s very ordered as chaos goes. Here is a role, the bear, that’s only there to enable another performer to exit the stage. The bear is a catalyst, related to the way out. The bear knows where the exits are. Held curtain in front of death. The bear is a force to drive us offstage. Maybe you need to go back to the bear. Back to the stage direction: Exit pursued by a bear.