If my faith had need restoring, this evening would have been the restoration. I took a train out of New Street to Long Buckby in Northamptonshire to see Chris Dugrenier’s latest performance and it was wonderful. The whole experience was a total validation of my belief in theatre.
The show was presented in Chris’ home, though this was by force of necessity, it was also a powerful act of intimacy and hospitality. Chris is lucky enough to live in a home large enough to stage a modest theatre show and thereby she needs no one’s permission or invitation to perform. In a home not a venue, with no marketing team or budget to pull the crowds there were only two of us there, but this didn’t matter.
Chris’ performance style is, like her, unaffected, warm and open. Where the audience’s intimacy could be uncomfortable all I felt was privilege. What an honour to have been invited into a home to see a performance that has been fashioned out of love and desire, totally for its own sake, outside the realm of commerce.
The piece, Wealth’s Last Caprice, is delightfully simple and resonant. Chris has gathered all her worldly goods together, catalogued them, piled them into a modest sized mound and photographed them. Rather than destroying them, Chris then muses with us about her possessions, their relative value and volume, origin and functionality. Inter-woven with this current day thread are a series of vignettes dramatising the readings of some extraordinary historic wills and the two threads are tide together movingly at the show’s conclusion as Chris makes her own will which we witness as a legal document.
The tone is spare, simple and quiet. The material is personal enough to be powerful and yet open enough to provoke personal reflection. Chris does not tell us what to think but gives us space to think our thoughts. This being the first performance the delivery was clean and clear but not slick or totally assured, just somehow direct and truthful. The show also benefited from being written and performed by someone in their second language. The occasionally unusual word choice of turn of phrase coupled with a strong foreign accent means that words are no longer transparent but tangible material, carefully selected and sewn together in an echo of the legal documents, read in a male voice, which haunt the rest of the show
The ritual of is performance event, a gift from Chris and her lover Adrian to us, the two witnesses, was moving but then so was the show, sometimes exquisitely so. This was a ‘work in progress’ but it could easily just have been a short show. There are things you would cut and expand, improve and enrich but it was satisfying as it was presented to us; inspiring and worth more than any of the multi-million dollar films that we can see each and every night in the comfort of our homes slumped in front of the television.
There are two more chances to catch the show on 10th & 11th April, 7.30 at The Assembly Rooms, 17 Church Street, Long Buckby – NN6 7QH. I urge you to go if you possibly can.